LTsER Montado Protocols - rabbits

LTsER Montado Protocols - rabbits
Wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are an essential keystone element of Mediterranean landscapes, the ‘Montado’ ecosystem included, and also an important game species (Delibes et al., 2007). Rabbits are main prey for a large number of predators, some of them critically endangered such as the Iberian Lynx (Delibes et al., 2000) or the Iberian Imperial Eagle (Sanchez et al., 2008). The species is also a “landscape modeler” as rabbits have a considerable effect on plant composition and structure over large areas and therefore in the habitat quality and quantity of a number of species. Rabbits have declined massively in recent decades, mainly due to myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease, and nowadays the species show an uneven distribution and density with many low-dense areas and fewer areas still containing rabbits at relatively high density (Cabezas-Diaz et al., 2009). While being important to know whether rabbit numbers have changed appreciably, there are no practicable methods of making direct measures of their population size, and an index method based on dropping counts is therefore used to estimate relative abundance and detect population changes.
Rabbit, biodiversity, keystone species, game species, hunting
Paula Gonçalves, Margarida Santos-Reis