Ecological Research

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 181–190 | Cite as

Motion capacity, geography and ecological features explain the present distribution of a migratory top predator

  • Michele Panuccio
  • Giuseppe Lucia
  • Nicolantonio Agostini
  • Dario Ottonello
  • Giuseppe Bogliani
Original Article

Abstract

Presence and distribution of ecological barriers shapes the distribution of migratory birds as well as any other living organism. In Italy, short-toed snake eagles (Circaetus gallicus) breed in the northern and western areas of the peninsula but the species is rare in the south or the islands. The Italian population of this species migrates across the Mediterranean at the Strait of Gibraltar rather than crossing the large stretch of sea between Sicily and Tunisia. This suggests that, in Italy, fall migration is oriented south–north and spring migration north–south. In this paper we test the hypothesis that the accessibility of the suitable habitat area along the Italian Peninsula is in relation to the geographical migration pattern of the studied species. We integrated information from the movement ecology, the geography and the traditional ecological features in order to provide an ecological explanation of the current biogeographical pattern of our model species. We compared statistical models with and without latitude as a predictor. Each model was based on ecological and geographical variables, including land use, prey availability, spatial distribution of environmental elements (patch analysis), geomorphology, and geography. These models predict two patterns of suitability for short-toed snake eagles in Italy. Our results suggest that the abundance of this species increases with latitude despite the existence of large areas of suitable habitat in southern Italy. We suggest that the actual distribution of the short-toed snake eagle in Italy is influenced by the particular migration path used by this population, supporting the hypothesis that this species is still colonizing the Italian Peninsula through an unexpected colonization direction from north to south.

Keywords

Colonization direction Accessibility Migratory detour Ecological barriers Short-toed snake eagle Circaetus gallicus Italy 

Supplementary material

11284_2014_1226_MOESM1_ESM.docx (55 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 55 kb)

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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Panuccio
    • 1
    • 2
  • Giuseppe Lucia
    • 2
  • Nicolantonio Agostini
    • 2
  • Dario Ottonello
    • 3
  • Giuseppe Bogliani
    • 1
  1. 1.DSTA-Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.MEDRAPTORS (Mediterranean Raptor Migration Network)RomeItaly
  3. 3.DAIS-Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and StatisticsCà Foscari University of VeniceVeniceItaly

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