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Favourable areas for expansion and reintroduction of Iberian lynx accounting for distribution trends and genetic variation of the wild rabbit

Author(s): A. Márcia Barbosa | Raimundo Real

Journal: Wildlife Biology in Practice
ISSN 1646-1509

Volume: Iberian Lynx;
Start page: 34;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: Lynx pardinus | Oryctolagus cuniculus | specialist predator | predator-prey biogeography | spatial genetic structure | model extrapolation | combined favourability

Although on a local scale Iberian lynx distribution is determined by the availability of prey rabbits, recent modelling analyses have uncovered broad-scale disagreements between these two species’ distribution trends. These analyses showed also that the lynx had become restricted to only a fraction of the rabbit’s genetic variability, and that this could be jeopardising its survival in the face of environmental hazards and uncertainty. In the present paper, a follow-up was carried out through the building of lynx and rabbit distribution models based on the most recent Spanish mammal atlas. The predictions of environmental favourability (which is an indicator of abundance) for lynx and rabbit were positively correlated within the lynx's current distribution area, but they were negatively correlated within the total Spanish area where lynx occurred in the 1980’s. Environmental favourability for rabbits was significantly higher where lynx maintains reproductive populations than where it recently disappeared, indicating that rabbit favourability plays an important role and can be a good predictor of lynx persistence. The lynx and rabbit models were extrapolated to predict favourable areas for both species in Spain as well as in Portugal, on the original scale of the distribution data (10x10 km) and on a 100 times finer spatial resolution (1x1 km). The lynx and rabbit models were also combined through fuzzy logic to forecast the potential for lynx occurrence incorporating information on favourable areas for its main prey. Several areas are proposed as favourable for lynx expansion or re-introduction, encompassing both countries and both genetic lineages of the rabbit.

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