Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

Effects of habitat and landscape characteristics on medium and large mammal species richness and composition in northern Uruguay

José Andrade-Núñez, MaríaMitchell Aide, T.

The increasing world population and demand for food and other products has accelerated the conversion of natural habitats into agricultural lands, plantations and urban areas. Changes in habitat and landscape characteristics due to land-use change can have a significant effect on species presence, abundance, and distribution. Multi-scale approaches have been used to determine the proper spatial scales at which species and communities are responding to habitat transformation. In this context, we evaluated medium and large mammal species richness and composition in gallery forest (n = 10), grassland (n = 10), and exotic tree plantation (n = 10) in a region where grasslands have been converted into exotic tree plantations. We quantified mammal species richness and composition with camera traps and track surveys. The composition of the mammal community was related with local habitat variables, and landscape variables measured at seven spatial scales. We found 14 mammal species in forest, 11 species in plantation, and 7 mammal species in grassland. Two species are exotics, the wild boar Sus scrofa Linnaeus, 1758 and the European hare Lepus europaeus Pallas, 1778. The most common species are the crab-eating fox Cerdocyon thous Linnaeus, 1766, the nine-banded armadillo Dasypus novemcinctus Linnaeus, 1758 and the gray brocket deer Mazama gouazoubira G. Fischer, 1814 which are generalist species. Our results showed significant differences in mammal species richness and composition among the three habitat types. Plantations can have positive and negative effects on the presence of species restricted to grasslands. Positive effects are reflected in a wider local distribution of some forest species that rarely use grassland. The most important habitat and landscape variables that influenced mammal species richness and composition were vertical structure index, canopy cover, tree species diversity, percentage of grass, and the percentage of forest and grassland at the landscape scale of 0.1 km. We advise the following important measures for conservation of this mammal community: 1) reduce logging and cattle grazing in gallery forest, and 2) increase grassland buffer zones between plantation and forest.

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