Effect of habitat structure and type of farming on European hare (Lepus europaeus) abundance
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Game & Wildlife Management Consulting, Via F. Dini 3, 57021 Campiglia Marittima (LI)
Plant Protection Service of Tuscany Via Pietrapiana 30, 50121 Firenze
Publish date: 2016-12-05
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2016;27(2)
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European hare (Lepus europaeus) is a typical species of farmland habitat that has been negatively affected by agricultural intensification and, for this reason, may be considered a good indicator of farmland habitat quality. We carried out an exploratory analysis of hare abundance in 26 lowland farms in Tuscany, Central-Italy, with similar basic features (large estates with the same game management) but that differ for crops, landscape structure and farming options (organic vs. conventional farming). We used multiple regression analysis with theoretic information approach and multi-model inference to evaluate the effect of habitat variables and type of farming on hare abundance. Habitat structure (variety of crops) was the most important factor positively affecting hare abundance. We did not find a benefit of organic farming on this species; on the contrary, the highest hare densities were registered in conventional farms. Our findings suggest that organic farming regulations may fail to provide a sufficient habitat heterogeneity and, consequently, do not enhance wildlife abundance in farmland habitat.