Landscape influence on the feeding habits of European badger (Meles meles) in arid Spain

Año Publicación:  2016
Responsable: J. M. Requena-Mullor et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Mammal Research 61(3), pp. 197-207


J. M. Requena-Mullor, E. López-Carrique, A. J. Castro, E. Virgós & H. Castro


This study evaluates the influence of landscape on the feeding habits of the European badger (Meles meles) in the southern Iberian Peninsula and discusses some potential implications that the scenarios of climate change and land use and land cover changes proposed for this region could have on the diet of badgers. We particularly explore whether different vegetation types and land uses affect its feeding habits across three arid landscapes: maquiaxeric shrubland, and forestry. Although badger diet in Mediterranean environments has been described as frugivorous, in which the key food resources are wild or cultivated fruit (e.g., olives or figs), this species’ diet may vary in response to landscape composition, with individuals locally consuming different key items in an arid Mediterranean context. Based on the analysis of 252 scats collected monthly from June 2011 to May 2012, we found that diet significantly varied among the landscapes studied: Insects, carob, and small mammals were the key items in the maquia, figs, and oranges in the xeric shrubland, and earthworms and insects in the forestry. This shows that in an arid context, badgers adapt their diet to particular landscape conditions. Thus, our results support the important role of human activities, specifically the fruit orchards, in shaping badger diet and highlight the contrasting dietary differences of badgers, i.e., from an animal-based diet to one dominated by cultivated fruits when this type of crops are relevant in the landscape. In these circumstances and based on the proven effect of precipitation and land management practices on the food items identified here, we suggest that crop abandonment and less precipitation could reduce the availability of the badger’s key food resources, locally affecting its fitness and including local extinction where the habitats are extremely arid or crop abandonment is dominant.

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