Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 739–752 | Cite as

Assessing species traits and landscape relationships of the mammalian carnivore community in a neotropical biological corridor

  • Lain E. Pardo Vargas
  • Michael V. Cove
  • R. Manuel Spinola
  • Juan Camilo de la Cruz
  • Joel C. Saenz
Original Paper


Mammalian carnivores play an important role in regulating food webs and ecosystems. While many carnivore populations are facing various threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching, and illegal trade, others have adapted to human-dominated landscapes. Information about Neotropical carnivore communities in particular is limited, especially in disturbed landscapes. We conducted a camera trap survey at 38 sites across the San Juan–La Selva Biological Corridor in Costa Rica to assess occupancy and detection probabilities of the carnivore community. We developed hypotheses within a likelihood-based framework in order to determine the landscape features and species traits (diet and size) that influenced their occupancy. We detected nine of the 13 native carnivores predicted to occur in the corridor. When modeled separately, each species responded to land cover changes differently, suggesting no strong community-wide predictors of occupancy. We then modeled three separate guilds within the carnivore community: omnivorous mesopredators, obligate carnivorous mesopredators, and apex predators. These community guild models revealed a negative relationship between omnivorous mesopredators and increasing forest and tree plantation cover, suggesting omnivores utilize forest fragments and edge habitats in agricultural landscapes. Obligate carnivorous mesopredator models did not reveal any strong habitat relationships, but landscape effects tended to contradict our a priori predictions. Apex predators were positively associated with increasing forest and tree plantation cover, protected areas, and increasing distances to villages. Alarmingly, apex predators and obligate carnivorous mesopredators were generally rare within the biological corridor. A lack of top-down control alone might result in heightened occupancy for all mesopredators, but because the community is dominated by omnivorous species, bottom-up release from human-induced land cover changes and resource provision may better explain their high occupancy.


Biological corridor Camera traps Carnivores Occupancy models Omnivores Mesopredators 



We thank all the field assistants and lodges that helped with logistics for this research. Special thanks to Panthera—Costa Rica, and the private reserves or farms that allowed us to work inside, to Jose Fernando Gonzalez-Maya for his comments and collaboration during the M.Sc. dissertation process of the first author and during the writing process of this manuscript. We are also grateful to anonymous reviewers for their relevant edits and suggestions on the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Instituto Internacional de Conservación y Manejo de Vida Silvestre (ICOMVIS). IDEA WILD also helped with some indispensable equipment. Research was also supported and permitted by the National System of Conservation Areas–Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunication.

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1089_MOESM1_ESM.docx (41 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 41 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science (TESS), College of Marine and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.Instituto Internacional en Conservación y Manejo de Vida SilvestreUniversidad NacionalHerediaCosta Rica
  3. 3.Department of Applied EcologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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