Effect of anthropic disturbances on the activity pattern of two generalist mesocarnivores inhabiting Mediterranean forestry plantations

Abstract

Humans have been altering the Mediterranean landscapes for millennia. To diminish the probability of encounters with domestic animals, humans and their activities, many species adjust their behavior to become more nocturnal. Even habitat-generalist species, such as red fox and stone marten that are somehow tolerant to environmental changes, might be affected by anthropic disturbances. Nevertheless, only a small number of studies were implemented in Iberia targeting these mesocarnivores’ activity patterns, and fewer have assessed the temporal ecology of these species in Eucalyptus plantations, the current main forest cover in Portugal. Based on camera traps, we aimed to analyze: 1) the temporal and spatio-temporal activity patterns of red fox and stone marten; and 2) how they are affected by distinct human disturbances (i.e., humans, livestock, dogs, plantations, and hunting). Foxes presented a higher crepuscular activity, while martens were entirely nocturnal, suggesting some avoidance behavior. Both mesocarnivores showed a higher overlap with dogs’ activity than with humans or livestock. Foxes’ activity patterns vary between seasons and habitats but were not influenced by the hunting period. Results suggest that both mesocarnivores, besides setting apart their activity from humans related disturbances, also show a tendency to temporally avoid each other. While the increase of nocturnality may indicate an anthropic disturbance impact, a reduction of activity overlap between mesocarnivores may be a strategy to reduce competition. These results may help support the sustainable management of landscapes by highlighting critical periods where activity overlaps may occur, and thus the anthropic impacts on wildlife are higher.info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersio

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