Relative influence of inter- and intraspecific competition in an ungulate assemblage modified by introduced species

Valentina Zini, Kristin Waeber, Paul M. Dolman

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Abstract

Interspecific competition from introduced and naturally colonizing species has potential to affect resident populations, but demographic consequences for vertebrates have rarely been tested. We tested hypotheses of interspecific and intraspecific competition for density, body mass, and fertility of adult female Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) across a heterogeneous forest landscape occupied by two introduced deer species: Mediterranean Fallow Deer (Dama dama); and subtropical Reeve's Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi). Species-specific deer densities in buffers around culling locations of 492 adult female Roe Deer, sampled over seven years, were extracted from spatially explicit models calibrated through annual nocturnal distance sampling. Roe Deer fertility and body mass were related to species-specific deer densities and extent of arable lands using piecewise structural equation models. Reeve's Muntjac density was lower at higher Fallow Deer densities, suggesting interspecific avoidance via interference competition, but greater when buffers included more arable land. Roe Deer body mass was marginally greater when buffers included more arable land and was independent of deer densities. However, Roe Deer fertility was unrelated to female body mass, suggesting that fertility benefits exceeded an asymptotic threshold of body condition in this low-density population. However, Roe Deer fertility was slightly greater rather than reduced in areas with greater local Roe Deer density, suggesting negligible intraspecific competition. In contrast, Roe Deer was less fertile in areas with greater Reeve's Muntjac densities; thus, interspecific exceeded intraspecific competition in this assemblage. In contrast, we found no support for any effects of Fallow Deer density on Roe Deer density, body mass, or fertility. Complex networks of interspecific competition operating in this deer assemblage include: interspecific interference from Fallow Deer exceeded habitat effects for Reeve's Muntjac; and interspecific competition from introduced, smaller sedentary Reeve's Muntjac reduced fertility, unlike intraspecific, or potential competition with larger, more mobile, Fallow Deer for native Roe Deer. Mechanisms driving Roe Deer fertility may include interspecific behavioral interference or stress-resource depletion is considered less likely because Roe Deer fertility was independent of body mass. Findings emphasize the importance of ensuring appropriate management strategies for controlling invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879–891
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Volume104
Issue number4
Early online date31 Mar 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Keywords

  • feral deer
  • interference competition
  • intra-specific competitionn
  • invasion biology
  • invsive species
  • inter-specific competition
  • interspecific competition
  • intraspecific competition
  • invasive species

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