Drivers of survival in a small mammal of conservation concern: An assessment using extensive genetic non-invasive sampling in fragmented farmland

António Proença-Ferreira* (Corresponding Author), Clara Ferreira, Inês Leitão, Joana Paupério, Helena Sabino-Marques, Soraia Barbosa, Xavier Lambin, Paulo Célio Alves, Pedro Beja, Francisco Moreira, António Mira, Ricardo Pita

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Although important to guide conservation management, detailed demographic studies on rare or elusive species inhabiting fragmented, human-dominated landscapes are often hampered by the species’ low densities, and the logistic and ethical constraints in obtaining reliable information covering large areas. Genetic non-invasive sampling (gNIS) provides cost-effective access to demographic information, though its application to small mammals is still scarce. We used gNIS to infer on the demography of an endemic small mammal, the Cabrera vole (Microtus cabrerae), occurring as a spatially-structured population in a 462-ha Mediterranean farmland landscape. We intensively sampled fresh vole feces in four seasons, extracted the DNA, and performed individual identification based on genotypes built using nine microsatellites. We then estimated population size and individual survival relative to environmental variables, controlling for heterogeneity in capture probabilities using capture-mark-recapture modelling. Population size increased during the wet season and decreased during the dry season, while survival remained constant across the study period. Individuals captured along road-verges and around water-bodies survived longer than those captured near agricultural fields. The use of gNIS on a heterogeneous landscape such as our study area allowed us to demonstrate that human land-use activities affect Cabrera vole demographic parameters in Mediterranean farmland, with implications for conservation planning towards its long-term persistence. Our approach can be widely applied to other elusive small mammals of conservation concern, but for which informative demographic data are still scarce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date26 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Agricultural intensification
  • Capwire
  • Cormark-Jolly-Seber
  • Mediterranean farmland
  • Microtus cabrerae
  • Road effects


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