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Activity of potential predators of European hare (Lepus europaeus) leverets and ground-nesting birds in wildflower strips

European Journal of Wildlife Research

Abstract

The population decline of the European hare (Lepus europaeus) in Switzerland is generally attributed to low leveret survival. A significant intensification of agricultural practices led to a landscape transformation that reduced leveret survival by increasing negative factors such as predation pressure. Habitat improvement by means of wildflower strips has yielded some positive effects on European hare population trends, probably by improving food supply and providing year-round cover from predation. For this study, remote cameras were used to examine relationships between landscape and wildflower strip variables and the frequency of predator visits to wildflower strips as well as the probability of them visiting core areas of the strips. Of a total of 1586 visits of potential predators to wildflower strips, 91% were mammals and 9% were birds. Predators were more frequently observed at the edges of the wildflower strips than in their cores (72% of visits by mammalian predators and 76% by avian predators were at the edge). The results revealed that the frequency of observing predators was negatively correlated with adjacent crop height and the distance of the wildflower strip from settlements, roads and forests or hedgerows. The probability of a predator penetrating the core of the wildflower strip was negatively correlated with the vegetation cover, especially with the cover of wood, herbaceous plant species and teasel (Dipsacus fullonum). Appropriate management of wildflower strips by considering their spatial placement, creating low margin to surface area ratios and promoting heterogeneous wildflower structure can thus lead to reduced predator pressure on leverets as well as on ground-nesting birds.

Author(s): Hummel, S; Meyer, L; Hacklander, K; Weber, D

Journal: European Journal of Wildlife Research

Year: 2017

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