Predicting species interactions from edge responses: Mongoose predation on hawksbill sea turtle nests in fragmented beach habitat

  • Leighton P
  • Horrocks J
  • Krueger B
 et al. 
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Abstract

Because species respond differently to habitat boundaries and spatial overlap affects encounter rates, edge responses should be strong determinants of spatial patterns of species interactions. In the Caribbean, mongooses (Herpestes javanicus) prey on hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) eggs. Turtles nest in both open sand and vegetation patches, with a peak in nest abundance near the boundary between the two microhabitats; mongooses rarely leave vegetation. Using both artificial nests and hawksbill nesting data, we examined how the edge responses of these species predict the spatial patterns of nest mortality. Predation risk was strongly related to mongoose abundance but was not affected by nest density or habitat type. The product of predator and prey edge response functions accurately described the observed pattern of total prey mortality. Hawksbill preference for vegetation edge becomes an ecological trap in the presence of mongooses. This is the first study to predict patterns of predation directly from continuous edge response functions of interacting species, establishing a link between models of edge response and species interactions

Author-supplied keywords

  • Edge effect
  • Evolutionary trap
  • Fragmentation
  • Generalized additive mixed model (GAMM)
  • Habitat selection
  • Spillover predation

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Authors

  • Patrick A. Leighton

  • Julia A. Horrocks

  • Barry H. Krueger

  • Jennifer A. Beggs

  • Donald L. Kramer

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