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J.-C. Svenning

Large herbivores in novel ecosystems - Habitat selection by red deer (Cervus elaphus) in a former brown-coal mining area

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After centuries of range contraction, many megafauna species are recolonizing parts of Europe. One example is the red deer (Cervus elaphus), which was able to expand its range and is now found in half the areas it inhabited in the beginning of the 19th century. Herbivores are important ecosystem engineers, influencing e.g. vegetation. Knowledge on their habitat selection and their influence on ecosystems might be crucial for future landscape management, especially for hybrid and novel ecosystems emerging in post-industrial landscapes. In this study, red deer habitat selection was studied in a former brown-coal mining area in Denmark. Here, natural settings were severely changed during the mining activity and its current landscape is in large parts managed by hunters as suitable deer habitat. We assessed red deer habitat preferences through feces presence and camera traps combined with land cover data from vegetation sampling, remote sensing and official geographic data. Red deer occurrence was negatively associated with human disturbance and positively associated with forage availability, tree cover and mean terrain height. Apparently, red deer are capable of recolonizing former industrial landscapes quite well if key conditions such as forage abundance and cover are appropriate. In the absence of carnivores, human disturbance, such as a hunting regime is a main reason why deer avoid certain areas. The resulting spatial heterogeneity red deer showed in their habitat use of the study area might be a tool to preserve mosaic landscapes of forest and open habitats and thus promote biodiversity in abandoned post-industrial landscapes.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
Artikelnummere0177431
TidsskriftP L o S One
Vol/bind12
Nummer5
ISSN1932-6203
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 1 maj 2017

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