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European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) engineering effects promote plant heterogeneity in Mediterranean dehesa pastures

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Gálvez-Bravo, L. and López-Pintor Alcón, Antonio and Rebollo, S. and Gómez-Sal, Antonio (2011) European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) engineering effects promote plant heterogeneity in Mediterranean dehesa pastures. journal of Arid Environments, 75 (9). pp. 779-786. ISSN 1095-922X

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Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140196311001029



Abstract

Mammalian herbivores can have dramatic etfects on the vegetation through different mechanisms, and may therefore modify resource distribution or create habitat for other species. Organisms that cause such changes are classified as ecosystem engineers. The European rabbit ( Orycto/agus cunicu/us) is a semifossorial mammal native to the lberian Peninsula and a keystone species in Mediterranean foodwebs. Rabbits are central-place foragers, but few studies have analysed their ecosystem engineering effects in the vicinity ofwarrens. Here, we explored the role of rabbits as ecosystem engineers in Mediterranean pastures in central Spain. We studied the spatial patterns and internal heterogeneity in the vegetation community of different spatial subunits created by rabbits (warrens, the warren influence area, and latrines). Within the different subunits, rabbit activities gave rise to patches and gradients with different plant species richness, diversity and height. and a high internal heterogeneity (dissimilarity) in floristic composition. Through different mechanisms, they have a significant effect on species coexistence and competitive interactions, and increase the number of available ni ches for plants which otherwise would not be able to establish. In conclusion, rabbits can act as allogenic ecosystem engineers in Mediterranean pastures, increasing heterogeneity and contributing to the high biodiversity of Mediterranean annual pastures.


Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Beta diversity, Biodiversity, Burrowing mammals, Floristic composition, Latrines, Warrens
Subjects:Medical sciences > Biology > Ecology
Medical sciences > Biology > Mammals
ID Code:56506
Deposited On:24 Jul 2019 14:26
Last Modified:30 Jul 2019 08:12

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