ISSN: 1578-665X | e-ISSN: 2014-928X An international journal devoted to the study and conservation of animal biodiversity, open-access, free for authors, driven by a fast-paced editorial process that includes assessment by experts. It is published twice a year.

The selection of anthropogenic habitat by wildlife as an ecological consequence of rural exodus: empirical examples from Spain

Martínez–Abraín, A. Ferrer, X. Jiménez, J.  Fernández–Calvo, I. C. 

DOI: https://doi.org/10.32800/abc.2021.44.0195

Abstract

The increasing urbanization of the landscape is a major component of global change worldwide. However, it is puzzling that wildlife is selecting anthropogenic habitats despite the availability of apparently high–quality semi–natural (i.e. less intensively modified) habitats. Definitive explanations for this process are still lacking. We have previously suggested that colonization of the urban habitat is initially triggered by ecological processes that take place outside urban areas as a consequence of past rural exodus. Here we present a diverse array of examples of selection of several types of anthropogenic habitat by wildlife in Spain (including transportation infrastructure, human–exclusion areas, urban areas under construction, cities, reservoirs, quarries and landfills) in support of this idea. Wildlife is moving out of its historical ecological refuges and losing fear of harmless urban humans. Mesopredators are rebounding by mesopredator release, due to ceased human persecution, and shrubs and trees are claiming former agricultural habitats. Together, these factors force many species to move to urbanized areas where they find open habitats, food associated with these habitats, and protection against predation. Hence, the classical balance of costs and benefits that takes place once inside urban areas, would actually be a second step of the process of colonization of urban areas. A better understanding of the initial triggers of urban colonization could help us increase the biological value of human–made habitats for wildlife in the future.

Key words

Changed human attitudes, Mesopredator release, Loss of fear, Human depopulation, Shrub and tree encroachment, Urban areas

Reception date: 22 II 21  |   Acceptation date: 31 V 21  |   Publication date: 18 VI 21

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