Castro, G., Teixeira, D., Magalhães, A., Camarinha, C., Guillera‐Arroita, G., Fonseca, C. & Rosalino, L.M. (2022) Drivers of occupancy patterns for the red fox, Vulpes vulpes, in Mediterranean Eucalyptus plantations.Forest Ecology and Managment , 519, 120293. DOI:10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120293 (IF2020 3,558; Q1 Forestry)
The replacement of natural areas with forestry plantations is a worldwide expanding process with direct consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem functionality. In the Mediterranean region, Eucalyptus spp. plantations are widespread, forming monospecific landscapes that in Portugal dominate most of its forested areas. The reduction in the availability of native habitats induces important challenges to native wildlife, namely changes in habitat use patterns and behavior. In this study, we evaluated the influence of Eucalyptus globulus exotic plantations on the occupancy patterns of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes L.), a mesocarnivore widely distributed in the Palearctic, and we examined potential drivers shaping those patterns. We conducted camera trapping surveys in Central Portugal (Southwestern Europe), in eight 16 km2 grids, and analyzed the resulting occurrence data accounting for imperfect detection. Our analysis revealed a preference of the red fox for native vegetation over non-native plantations and avoidance of areas with higher human disturbance. Our data suggest that the current structure of exotic plantations can have a negative impact on species occurrence, even for generalist and resilient species such as the red fox. By gaining insight into landscape structures that promotes fox occupancy, our research can contribute to the development and implementation of more integrative management measures aiming to promote the presence and conservation of mesocarnivores in Eucalyptus dominated landscapes while ensuring sustainable exploitation of these plantations.