Coexistence of carnivores in a heterogeneous landscape: habitat selection and ecological niches
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- Pereira, P., Alves da Silva, A., Alves, J. et al. Ecol Res (2012) 27: 745. doi:10.1007/s11284-012-0949-1
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Understanding distributional patterns and mechanisms used by species for habitat selection is crucial to adopt effective land management policies in terms of biodiversity conservation. A heterogeneous landscape may allow coexistence of species. That coexistence will be dependent on the availability of the resources in the habitat that has to be sufficient to fulfil their basic needs. The present study aimed to investigate habitat selection, niche breadth and niche overlap of three sympatric carnivore species (Vulpes vulpes,Genetta genetta and Martes foina) in a typically fragmented landscape from Central Portugal, using camera-trapping techniques. The results obtained revealed that the investigated species use the available habitats differently and in a non-random way. The red fox showed the most specialized behaviour, positively selecting coniferous forests. The common genet preferred eucalyptus, avoiding old-growth mixed woodland, in contrast with stone marten that exhibited a strong preference for this late habitat, avoiding eucalyptus. Concerning the niche breadth, the genet had the highest value while the red fox had the lowest one. The results obtained at the camera-trap level showed that the highest niche overlap occurred between the genet and the stone marten which suggests that these species can coexist and share the available resources. Regarding the habitat level, the greatest niche overlap was found for the stone marten and the red fox, indicating the exploration of the same general habitat conditions by both species. The results obtained in the present study support the concept that landscape complexity allows coexistence between species within the same trophic level.