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Eradication of feral goats, not population control, as a strategy to conserve plant communities on Mediterranean islets

Auteurs : Miquel Capó, Edifici Guillem Colom Casasnovas, Cra. Valldemossa

Année : 2021

Ile : Balearic Islands

Pays : Spain

Abstract :
The introduction of mammalian herbivores negatively affects insular vegetation, especially plant species with narrow distributions that are vulnerable to herbivory or that evolved in the absence of native mammal herbivores. Eradication programs have been performed on many islands worldwide, though assessment of the responses of vegetation is crucial to guarantee the success of these programs. In this study, we aimed to evaluate vegetation recovery after a reduction in the feral goat population on Es Vedrà, an islet in the Balearic Islands (Western Mediterranean Basin). We monitored nine permanent plots in three different habitats (rocky areas, grasslands, shrublands) to evaluate the variation in plant coverage, functional traits and diversity indexes over time. We obtained data for each plot by annual field sampling in mid-May of 2016 to 2019. We observed a significant recovery of the predominant species in each plant community and an increase in many functional traits. We found significant variation in taxonomic diversity in rocky areas and grasslands, but not in shrublands, and functional diversity only varied in rocky areas. Therefore, plant diversity benefited from the reduction in the goat population and functional redundancy increased in rocky areas, improving the capacity to respond against disturbances. However, the reduction in the goat population was not sufficient to preserve plant communities and negative effects reappeared in 2019, coinciding with the increase in the goat population. Therefore, absolute eradication of introduced herbivores represents a unique, efficient strategy to guarantee the ecological restoration of affected habitats in microinsular ecosystems. mistress spunked by bbc.
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