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Habitat selection of European badger Meles meles in a highly fragmented forest landscape in northern Italy: the importance of hedgerows and agro-forestry systems

Hystrix-Italian Journal of Mammalogy

Abstract

The European badger is a common and widespread species considered as a least-concern species by the IUCN. However, there are still many threats for its conservation, especially in areas where the original landscape has been highly modified by humans. The aim of this study was to define the habitat selection criteria of the European badger in a highly modified lowland area in northern Italy, with particular attention to the role that hedgerows and agro-forestry systems could have for this species. The study area is a typical lowland cultivated landscape, where small forest remnants are scattered within an agricultural matrix mainly characterized by intensive cereal crops and areas devoted to agro-forestry. Data collection followed a stratified random sampling design and consisted of detecting the presence of the species within 62 2-km cells. Presence signs were spotted along linear transect from April to September 2014. We investigated the association between species presence/abundance and the environmental variables measured within each cell by means of resource selection probability functions using GLMs. In our study area the European badger significantly depended on broadleaved forests, but the species also selected traditional poplar plantations, short rotation forestry, reforestations, and hedgerows. Conversely, the species avoided meadows with shrubs and trees and areas with scarce or absent vegetation. In conclusion, the European badger seemed to benefit from agricultural landscape elements, such as agro-forestry systems and hedgerows, which probably serve as forest surrogates for this species, both in providing food resources and suitable sett locations.

Author(s): Chiatante, G; Dondina, O; Lucchelli, M; Bani, L; Meriggi, A

Journal: Hystrix-Italian Journal of Mammalogy

Year: 2017

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