Effects of human impacts on habitat use, activity patterns and ecological relationships among medium and small felids of the Atlantic Forest

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Abstract

Competition theory and niche theory suggest that two morphologically similar species may coexist by reducing the overlap of at least one dimension of their ecological niche. The medium and small Neotropical felids are an interesting group of carnivore species for studying intraguild competition. Due to differences in size it is expected that the larger ocelot exert strong interference competition on the smaller felids (southern tiger cat, margay and jaguarundi); which, in turn, may exert exploitative competition among themselves. Moreover, landscape changes due to human activities may alter these interspecific interactions. We studied the habitat use and the spatial and temporal interspecific relations of the medium and small Atlantic Forest felids, in a landscape with different levels of anthropogenic impact. We estimated the detection probability, and occupancy probability of these cats and whether these parameters are affected by environmental and anthropogenic variables or by the estimated occupancy and detection probability of the ocelot. We estimated the overlap in daily activity patterns between pairs of the four species and changes in their activity in response to anthropogenic impact. We also studied the potential changes that may have occurred in the daily activity of the small felids in relation to ocelot’s occupancy probability. The probability of habitat use of the small- and medium-size felids was negatively associated to the intensity of landscape use by humans. Co-occurrence models indicated that the probability of habitat use by southern tiger cats decreased with ocelot occupancy probability. This effect was higher as human disturbance increased. Moreover, the ocelot and the southern tiger cat became more nocturnal in sites with higher human access, suggesting that they may be temporally avoiding encounters with humans or dogs. Conservation of medium and small felids in the Atlantic Forest depends not only on the establishment and implementations of protected areas but also on the management of human’s land uses.

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Cruz, P., Iezzi, M. E., De Angelo, C., Varela, D., Di Bitetti, M. S., & Paviolo, A. (2018). Effects of human impacts on habitat use, activity patterns and ecological relationships among medium and small felids of the Atlantic Forest. PLoS ONE, 13(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200806

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