«LANDSCAPE ANTHROPIZATION SHAPES THE SURVIVAL OF A TOP AVIAN SCAVENGER »
In January 2020, a new article by E. Arrondo et al. was published which concerned the influence of landscape anthropization on the survival of large vertebrates, especially that of vultures. They are in deed most threatened and experience large population declines due to non-natural mortality linked to human activities.
The Human Footprint index was used to study the impact of anthropization on 66 griffon vultures in two Spanish regions.
Events of non-natural mortality in human-dominated landscapes are especially challenging for populations of large vertebrates with K strategies. Among birds, vultures are one of the most threatened groups experiencing sharp population declines due to non-natural mortality.
Factors causing non-natural mortality are usually studied separately. However, the potential use of an integrated index able to predict large-scale mortality risks of avian scavengers could be especially useful to plan conservation strategies.
Here, The Human Footprint index was used to examine the impact of landscape anthropization on the survival rates of 66 GPS-tagged adult Eurasian griffon vultures (Gyps Fulvus) in two Spanish regions.
Foraging in more anthropized areas resulted in a significantly higher individual mortality risk mainly due to collisions with vehicles, poisonings, electrocutions and fatalities with wind turbines. The yearly survival rates were estimated at 0,817 +-0,043 SE for individuals in the most anthropized areas and 0,968 +-0,018 SE for individuals in the least anthropized areas.
Additional research should be conducted to determine whether some vulture populations could be acting as ecological sinks unnoticed because of metapopulation dynamics. From a broader point of view, our study shows that a straightforward Human Footprint was a useful index to predict the survival of vultures and can be highly applicable to plan large-scale conservation measures.