The influence of human, livestock, and ecological features on the occurrence of genet (Genetta genetta): a case study on Mediterranean farmland
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We have studied the relationship between occurrence patterns of the genet (Genetta genetta) and ecological, human, and livestock descriptors at the Monfurado Natura 2000 Site in southern Portugal. An information–theoretical model comparison (ITMC) was used to select the best models to explain the presence of the species, using data from 36 habitat patches. Variables that were included in the best models then were used in a variation partitioning procedure to determine the relative influence of each variable set on the presence of the genet. When considered together, all the variables captured 56.5% of the variance in genet occurrence within the study area. The set of ecological variables accounted for most of the explained variance (pure effect: 30.3%). In the best ecological model, the occurrence of the genet was positively related to the density of trees and shrubs in the dominant agro–silvo–pastoral system (montado), to soil organic matter, and to Shannon’s index of vertical vegetation diversity. Human influence factors (pure effect: 4.8%) highlighted the negative relationship between the presence of the genet and the proportion of game-estate areas. The group of livestock variables (pure effect: 8.5%) revealed that intermediate levels of grazing may promote the occurrence of the genet. Our results highlight the importance of variables directly related to agricultural management, and are meaningful because they allow for the prioritization of management decisions. In particular, the results draw attention to soil organic matter and grazing by sheep, which are important factors in soil conservation practices.