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Alternative food and rabbit damage in vineyards of southern Spain

Barrio, I.C., Bueno, C.G., Tortosa, F.S.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2010 v.138 no.1-2 pp. 51-54
Vitis vinifera, grapes, fruit crops, rabbits, vertebrate pests, plant damage, foraging, agroecosystems, semiarid zones, pest control, shoots, feces, population density, crop yield, wildlife food habits, botanical composition, species diversity, Spain
The objectives of this study were to quantify the damage caused to vineyards by foraging rabbits in a semiarid agroecosystem in southern Spain, to identify the main factors that promote the problem, and to propose efficient management strategies. In spring 2008, rabbit damage was assessed using a browsing index on vine shoots and rabbit abundance was estimated using faecal pellet counts. The availability of alternative feeding sources was estimated, and the loss in grape production was calculated. In addition, an experiment on the effectiveness of diversionary feeding in reducing damage caused by rabbits was conducted. Rabbit damage was strongly, positively correlated with rabbit abundance, and decreased with increasing diversity of herbaceous plant species. Grapevine yield was negatively correlated with rabbit damage, which caused a 20% reduction in yield. Although diversionary feeding practices did not have a significant effect on grapevine yield, they significantly reduced rabbit damage, suggesting that food availability had a major influence on the likelihood and extent of rabbit-induced damage to vineyards.