Spatial-explicit assessment of current and future conservation options for the endangered Corsican Red Deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus) in Sardinia

Abstract

The Corsican red deer, a sub-species of the European red deer endemic to Sardinia and Corsica, was abundant on both islands at the beginning of 1900. It went extinct in Corsica and reached a minimum of 100 individuals in Sardinia by 1970. Numbers have recovered in Sardinia with more than 1,000 rutting males now present; in the 1980s the deer was reintroduced to Corsica, but the Sardinian population remains fragmented. We developed a potential distribution model in Sardinia using Ecological Niche Factor Analysis. To assess the deer’s protection status we compared the model with the existing and proposed conservation areas and investigated different conservation scenarios in relation to the expansion of its current range and resilience to future changes in land use and predicted trends of desertification. According to our results over 70% of Sardinia is unsuitable to the deer, nevertheless high suitability areas (Mediterranean forests away from main roads) are available throughout the island, particularly in the south and in the central-eastern part. Existing protected areas do not provide for the conservation of the deer but public owned forests, where hunting is prohibited, extend some level of protection, and the protected areas proposed by the Regional administration, if implemented, will be increasing this protection. Three main areas have emerged as conservation priorities to guarantee adequate conservation potential in the future. Our approach provides valuable data to inform conservation policy, and could be easily replicated in other parts of the Mediterranean.

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Abbreviations

DTM:

Digital terrain model

ENFA:

Ecological niche factor analysis

ESAs:

Environmental sensitive areas

EU:

European Union

SCIs:

Site of European Community Importance

UPGMA:

Un-weighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic mean

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the Ente Foreste della Regione Sardegna that made the data on deer presence available online. GP would like to thanks S. Lovari, the main responsible for his passion towards fieldwork. We acknowledge G. Amori, P. Ciucci, C. Fassò, S. Lovari, and A. Mortelliti for their useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. Last, but not least, thanks to Enea Beccu, who worked throughout all his life to save the Corsican red deer.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Puddu.

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Puddu, G., Maiorano, L., Falcucci, A. et al. Spatial-explicit assessment of current and future conservation options for the endangered Corsican Red Deer (Cervus elaphus corsicanus) in Sardinia. Biodivers Conserv 18, 2001–2016 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9569-z

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Keywords

  • Cervus elaphus corsicanus
  • Conservation
  • Desertification risk
  • ENFA
  • Land-use management
  • Potential suitability