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Ecological niche overlap between co-occurring native and exotic ungulates: insights for a conservation conflict

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ARTICLE DOWNLOAD

Ecological niche overlap between co-occurring native and exotic ungulates: insights for a conservation conflict

10$

Roberto Pascual-Rico, José Antonio Sánchez-Zapata, Joan Navarro, Sergio Eguía, José Daniel Anadón & Francisco Botella 

Abstract

Exploitative competition implies an indirect interaction in which a resource exploited by one species is not available for another; e.g., when species share diet or habitat. It plays a key role in community structure and dynamics. Here we evaluated the niche overlap between the exotic aoudad (Ammotragus lervia) and the native Iberian ibex (Capra pyrenaica) where the species coexist in the Iberian Peninsula, along two main dimensions, the trophic niche and the environmental niche. Then we assessed the spatial segregation of the species. We expected that if a niche overlap was high, competition could drive spatial segregation to allow co-existence. We analyzed their trophic niche overlap by using the content of stable isotopes δ15N and δ13C in the hair of both species. To establish environmental niche competition, we compared the similarity in their habitat, estimated by environmental niche models based on the fine-scale presence records of each species obtained from field surveys. To test if spatial segregation occurred, we analyzed both species’ co-occurrence. Our results indicated that both species shared a similar trophic niche measured by stable isotopes, both species showed a similar distribution of suitable areas, and that both species’ environmental niches were more similar than expected. Finally, a negative spatial association was found between the aoudad and Iberian ibex. These results reveal that both species are ecologically similar and suggest that fine-scale spatial segregation might have favoured their co-existence in semiarid Mediterranean mountains. Our results show that integrating information on trophic and environmental niche overlap with fine scale spatial distribution might improve the study of competitive interactions among wild ungulates.

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Year 2020
Language English
Format PDF
DOI 10.1007/s10530-020-02265-x