In this study, we explored if, how, and when the European Union habitats (EU sensu Habitats Directive 92/43/CEE) are used by the flagship species Testudo hermanni in a well-preserved coastal dune system of the Italian peninsula. Radio telemetry data and fine-scale vegetation habitat mapping were used to address the following questions: a) Is each EU habitat used differentially by Hermann's tortoises? b) Is there any seasonal variation in this utilization pattern? c) How does each habitat contribute to the ecological requirements of the tortoises? Nine tortoises were fitted with transmitters and monitored for the entire season of activity. The eight EU habitats present in the study area were surveyed and mapped using GIS. The seasonal preferential use or avoidance of each habitat was tested by comparing, through bootstrap tests, the proportion of habitat occupied (piTh) with the proportion of available habitat in the entire landscape (piL). The analysis of 340 spatial locations showed a marked preference for the Cisto-Lavanduletalia dune sclerophyllous scrubs (EU code 2260) and a seasonal selection of Juniperus macrocarpa bushes (EU code 2250*), wooded dunes with Pinus (EU code 2270) and mosaic of dune grasslands and sclerophyllous scrubs (EU codes 2230, 2240, 2260). Seasonal variation of habitat preference was interpreted in light of the different feeding, thermoregulation and reproductive needs of the tortoises. Our results stress the ecological value of EU coastal dune habitats and suggest prioritization of conservation efforts in these ecosystems.
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI):||10.1016/j.crvi.2015.03.002|
|Codice identificativo ISI:||WOS:000355641800007|
|Codice identificativo Scopus:||2-s2.0-84957790235|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|