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Scavenging efficiency and red fox abundance in Mediterranean mountains with and without vultures

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Morales-Reyes, Zebensui ; Sanchez-Zapata, Jose A. ; Sebastian-Gonzalez, Esther ; Botella, Francisco ; Carrete, Martina ; Moleon, Marcos
Número total de Autores: 6
Tipo de documento: Artigo Científico
Citações Web of Science: 3

Vertebrate scavenging assemblages include two major functional groups: obligate scavengers (i.e., vultures), which depend totally on carrion and are undergoing severe declines around the globe, and facultative scavengers, which exploit carrion opportunistically and are generally ubiquitous. Our goal was to investigate the hypothesis that vultures can indirectly regulate the abundance of mesopredators (i.e., facultative scavengers) through modulating their access to carrion resources. We studied scavenging efficiency and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) abundance in two neighbouring areas of South-eastern Spain where vultures (mainly griffon vultures Gyps fulvus) are present (Cazorla) and absent (Espuna). To do so, we monitored ungulate carcasses consumption during winter and summer, and counted red fox scats along walking transects as a proxy of fox density. Our results confirmed that scavenging efficiency was higher in Cazorla and in carcasses visited by vultures. This resulted in increasing scavenging opportunities for facultative scavengers where vultures were absent. Accordingly, mean red fox abundance was higher in Espuna. These results suggest the existence of a vulture-mediated mesopredator release (i.e., an increase of mesopredator numbers following vulture loss), which could trigger important indirect ecological effects. Also, our study demonstrates that facultative scavengers are hardly able to functionally replace vultures, mainly because the former exploit carrion on a slower time scale. (C) 2017 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved. (AU)

Processo FAPESP: 11/17968-2 - Variabilidade estrutural e geográfica em redes mutualísticas de plantas e aves frugívoras
Beneficiário:Esther Sebastián González
Linha de fomento: Bolsas no Brasil - Pós-Doutorado