Drivers of Psammodromus algirus abundance in a Mediterranean agroforestry landscape

Abstract

Mediterranean European landscapes have been shaped by human activities for centuries, particularly by livestock and farming. Traditionally managed montado landscapes have been recognized as having a crucial role in biodiversity conservation, providing habitat complexity and thus, ecological conditions for a variety of species. Biodiversity associated with montado can only be maintained under specific agricultural practices, with the intensification or abandonment of such practices posing serious threats for wildlife. Despite the high number of reptile species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, research on the influence of agroforestry management practices on these species has been scarce. The mediterranean lizard Psammodromus algirus is a generalist species that responds to changes in the structure and quality of microhabitats, specifically the shrub layer, which is greatly affects by changes in cattle grazing intensity. In this study, we assessed how grazing affects the frequency of occurrence of P. algirus in a Mediterranean landscape dominated by montado. We detected that areas of intermediate age regarding grazing exclusion support higher lizard abundance, with P. algirus abundance being limited by vegetation structure and solar radiation. Thus, we may infer that the vegetation structure regulatory role of cattle will affect this lizard’s abundance, limiting it indirectly. We suggest that the maintenance of adequate traditional management, allowing the grazing pressure at low to moderate levels, would be beneficial to this species and reptiles in general and conclude that reconciling grazing and reptile conservation is possible if done in a sustainable way.

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Acknowledgements

This study was carried out in the frame of a research protocol established between the Companhia das Lezírias, S.A. and the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c—Lisbon University). LMR thanks the financial support to University of Aveiro (Department of Biology), CESAM (UID/AMB/50017—POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007638), FCT/MCTES through national funds (PIDDAC), and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020.

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Correspondence to Joana Fernandes.

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Fernandes, J., Petrucci-Fonseca, F., Santos-Reis, M. et al. Drivers of Psammodromus algirus abundance in a Mediterranean agroforestry landscape. Agroforest Syst 93, 2281–2291 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10457-019-00348-w

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Keywords

  • Montado
  • Grazing
  • Shrub management
  • Algerian psammodromus