Advertisement

Ecosystem Engineering Effects of European Rabbits in a Mediterranean Habitat

  • Lucía Gálvez
  • Antonio López-Pintor
  • José M De Miguel
  • Germán Alonso
  • Marta Rueda
  • Salvador Rebollo
  • Antonio Gómez-Sal

Beyond their role as primary consumers, herbivore activities can play a key part in spatial processes at the ecosystem level (e.g., McNaughton 1983; McInnes et al. 1992; De Miguel et al. 1997). Environmental factors such as geomorphology, soil and vegetation characteristics, slope, aspect etc., affect the spatial distribution of the resources they need, mainly refuge, food, and water. Therefore, a particular set of habitat characteristics influences the use of different areas for specific activities by a given herbivore species. In turn, the use of habitats by herbivores may affect such characteristics at different scales. This is the case of many sedentary herbivores which, after establishing themselves in a particular area of an ecosystem, begin their modification. Pond construction by beavers not only changes river-flow patterns and surrounding vegetation, but also nutrient cycling (Naiman et al. 1994; Pollock et al. 1995). Excavating mammals, such as prairie dogs and pocket gophers, can also have profound impacts upon soil processes and the vegetation surrounding their burrow systems (see Whitford and Kay 1999; Huntly and Reichman 1994 for thorough reviews). Species that can have significant effects on the spatial structure of the landscape and the distribution of resources, both for themselves and other organisms, are considered ecosystem engineers (Jones et al. 1994). These species can be important patch creators through their activities or structures, and these patches can be exploited by different animal and plant species, thus increasing biodiversity and potentially controlling many processes and affecting ecosystems at different scales.

Keywords

Floristic Composition Dung Beetle Vegetation Height Oryctolagus Cuniculus Burrow System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Archer S, Scifres C, Bassham CR, Maggio R (1988) Autogenic succession in a subtropical savanna: conversion of grassland to thorn woodland. Ecol Monogr 58:111–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bangert RK, Slobodchikoff CN (2000) The Gunnison's prairie dog structures a high desert grassland landscape as a keystone engineer. J Arid Environ 46:357–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blázquez MC, Villafuerte R (1990) Nesting of the Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) inside rabbit warrens at Doñana National Park (SW Spain), phenology and a probable case of communal nesting. J Zool Lond 222:692–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Callaway RM (1995) Positive interactions among plants. Bot Rev 61:306–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Callaway RM, Pugnaire FI (1999) Facilitation in plant communities. In: Pugnaire FI, Valladares F (eds) Handbook of functional plant ecology. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 623–648Google Scholar
  6. Clarke KR (1993) Non-parametric multivariate analyses of changes in community structure. Austral J Ecol 18:117–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cowan DP (1987) Aspects of the social organisation of the European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Ethology 75:197–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Delibes M, Hiraldo F (1981) The rabbit as prey in the Iberian Mediterranean ecosystem. In: Myers K, Maclnnes CD (eds) Proceedings of the world lagomorph conference, August 1979, Guelph, Ontario. Guelph, Guelph University Press. pp 614–622Google Scholar
  9. De Miguel JM, Rodríguez MA, Gómez-Sal A (1997) Determination of animal behavior-environment relationships by correspondence analysis. J Range Manage 50:85–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eldridge DJ, Myers CA (2001) The impact of warrens of the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on soil and ecological processes in a semi-arid Australian woodland. J Arid Environ 47:325–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Floate MJS (1981) Effects of grazing by large herbivores on nitrogen cycling in agricultural ecosystems. In: Clark FE, Rosswall T (eds) Terrestrial nitrogen cycles. Swedish Natural Science Research Council, Stockholm, pp 585–601Google Scholar
  12. Gillham ME (1955) Ecology of the Pembrokeshire islands. III. The effect of grazing on the vegetation. J Ecol 43:172–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hambler DJ, Dixon JM, Hale WHG (1995) Ten years in rehabilitation of spoil: appearance, plant colonists and the dominant herbivore. Environ Conserv 22:323–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Harper JL (1977) Population biology of plants. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  15. Huntly N, Reichman OJ (1994) Effects of subterranean mammalian herbivores on vegetation. J Mamm 75:852–859CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Joffre R, Vacher J, de los Llanos C, Long G (1988) The dehesa: an agrosilvopastoral system of the Mediterranean region with special reference to the Sierra Morena area of Spain. Agroforest Syst 6:71–96Google Scholar
  17. Jones CG, Lawton JH, Shachak M (1994) Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69:373–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lange RT, Graham CR (1983) Rabbits and the failure of regeneration in Australian arid zone Acacia. Austr J Ecol 8:377–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Legendre P (2000) Comparison of permutation methods for the partial correlation and partial Mantel tests. J Statist Comput Simul 67:37–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lombardi L, Fernandez N, Moreno S, Villafuerte R (2003) Habitat-related differences in rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) abundance, distribution, and activity. J Mamm 84:26–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McInnes PF, Naiman RJ, Pastor J, Cohen Y (1992) Effects of moose browsing on vegetation and litter of the boreal forest, Isle Royale, Michigan, USA. Ecology 73:2059–2075CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McNaughton SJ (1983) Serengeti grassland ecology: the role of composite environmental factors and contingency in community organization. Ecol Monogr 53:291–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moreno S, Villafuerte R (1995) Traditional management of scrubland for the conservation of rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and their predators in Doñana National Park. Biol Conserv 73:81–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moreno S, Villafuerte R, Delibes M (1996) Cover is safe during the day but dangerous at night: the use of vegetation by European wild rabbits. Can J Zool 74:1656–1660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Naiman RJ, Pinay G, Johnston CA, Pastor J (1994) Beaver influences on the long-term biogeochemical characteristics of boreal forest drainage networks. Ecology 75:905–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Oden NL, Sokal RR (1992) An investigation of three-matrix permutation tests. J Class 9:275–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Palomares F (2001) Comparison of three methods to estimate rabbit abundance in a Mediterranean environment. Wildl Soc Bull 29:578–585Google Scholar
  28. Palomares F (2003a) The negative impact of heavy rains on the abundance of a Mediterranean population of European rabbits. Mammal Biol 68:224–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Palomares F (2003b) Warren building by European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in relation to cover availability in a sandy area. J Zool Lond. 259:63–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Parer I, Libke JA (1985) Distribution of rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, warrens in relation to soil type. Austr Wildl Res 12:387–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Petterson DA (2001) The effects of the wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on soils and vegetation in semi-arid, south-eastern Spain. PhD. Dissertation, University of Leeds, Leeds, UKGoogle Scholar
  32. Pollock MM, Naiman RJ, Erickson HE, Johnston CA, Pastor J, Pinay G (1995) Beaver as engineers: influences on biotic and abiotic characteristics of drainage basins. In: Jones CG, Lawton JH (eds) Linking species and ecosystems. Chapman & Hall, New York, pp 117–126Google Scholar
  33. Rescia AJ, Schmitz MF, Martín de Agar P, de Pablo CL, Atauri JA, Pineda FD (1994) Influence of landscape complexity and land management on woody plant diversity in northern Spain. J Vegetation Sci 5:505–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roberts DW (1986) Ordination on the basis of fuzzy set theory. Vegetation 66:123–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smouse PE, Long JC, Sokal RR (1986) Multiple regression and correlation extension of the Mantel test of matrix correspondence. Syst Zool 35:627–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sneddon IA (1991) Latrine use by the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). J Mamm 72:769–775CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Spiers B (1981) Vegetation survey of semi-natural grazing lands (dehesas) near Mérida, south-west Spain, as a basis for land use planning. ITC Technical Report no. 6, Enschede, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  38. Verdu JR, Galante E (2004) Behavioural and morphological adaptations for a low-quality resource in semi-arid environments, dung beetles (Coleoptera, Scarabaeoidea) associated with the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) J Nat Hist 38:705–715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vetaas OR (1992) Micro-site effects of trees and shrubs in dry savannas. J Vegetation Sci 3:337–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Whitford WG, Kay FR (1999) Biopedturbation by mammals in deserts: a review. J Arid Environ 41:203–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Willot SJ, Miller AJ, Incoll LD, Compton SG (2000) The contribution of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to soil fertility in semi-arid Spain. Biol Fert Soils 31:379–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wood DH (1988) Estimating rabbit density by counting dung pellets. Austr Wildl Res 15:665–671CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucía Gálvez
    • 1
  • Antonio López-Pintor
    • 2
  • José M De Miguel
    • 2
  • Germán Alonso
    • 2
  • Marta Rueda
    • 1
  • Salvador Rebollo
    • 1
  • Antonio Gómez-Sal
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad de Alcalá. Edif. de Ciencias, Campus UniversitarioMadridSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations