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Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of the Endangered volcano rabbit Romerolagus diazi on the Iztaccihuatl volcano

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Abstract

The volcano rabbit Romerolagus diazi is an Endangered species endemic to Mexico, with a range of < 400 km2. We investigated threats from destruction, fragmentation and degradation of habitat, hunting, and cattle grazing intensity in relation to the distribution and abundance of the volcano rabbit on the Iztaccihuatl volcano. Faecal pellet counts were taken as a proxy for rabbit abundance in 1,718 random 0.2 m2 quadrats at 859 sampling points along 25 transects, covering an area of c. 100 km2 at altitudes of 3,400–4,000 m. Presence of the species was significantly associated with absence of closed forest, absence of long grass types (not bunchgrass), shallow inclines, absence of cattle grazing, lower altitude, low hunting pressure (measured by proximity to ranger station), absence of bare ground and, contrary to previous findings, increased frequency of fire. The species was significantly more abundant in habitats with a greater percentage cover of zacaton (bunchgrass) and short grass types. It was significantly less abundant in areas with more hunting (measured by proximity to ranger station) and cattle grazing. Key conservation priorities are therefore the protection of the subalpine zacaton bunchgrass-dominated habitat type, strict enforcement of hunting laws and the removal of livestock from relevant national park boundary areas. However, the results suggest that frequent fires have a significant positive effect on the occurrence of the volcano rabbit as a result of habitat improvement and this is often a consequence of anthropogenic management of land for cattle grazing.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-375
JournalOryx
Volume49
Issue number2
Early online date12 May 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

    Research areas

  • Conservation, Endemic, Mexico, Grazing, Hunting, Endangered, Mammal

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