, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 885-895
Date: 16 Sep 2012

European rabbit research in the Iberian Peninsula: state of the art and future perspectives

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Abstract

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a high-profile prey, native from the Iberian Peninsula, the only region in the world where the two rabbit subspecies (O. cuniculus algirus and O. cuniculus cuniculus) currently co-exist in natural conditions. In this area, this important prey represents a keystone species and ecosystem engineer of Mediterranean landscapes, being also the most harvested and one of the most managed small-game species. Additionally, the species can create damage to crops in some parts of the Iberian Peninsula where it is regarded as an agricultural pest. The scientific interest towards the species is becoming increasingly apparent most likely as a repercussion of declining population trends over the last decades. The latter has been the result of the impact of habitat deterioration, viral diseases, unsustainable hunting, and predation. In this paper, I present a review of the scientific literature currently available on the European rabbit in the Iberian Peninsula. I discuss knowledge gaps and highlight priority research guidelines to suppress them, in an attempt to provide a general perspective to target research efforts more effectively. This analysis is particularly relevant due to the current vulnerability of rabbit populations in Iberia and to the recent news of cuts in scientific funding in most Mediterranean countries.

Communicated by C. Gortázar