Mildly toxic shrubs as indicators of goats herbivory give information for the management of natural landscapes on Mediterranean islands

Miquel Capó*, Chiara Engelbrecht, Carles Cardona, Eva Castells, Jordi Bartolomé, Marta Ramoneda, Elena Baraza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Herbivory of insular plant communities by introduced animals has been widely studied for decades. Though their diet mainly includes palatable and highly nutritive species, goats will also eat plants that are toxic to other animals. Thus, severe affection of toxic species may indicate high herbivore pressure or a low quality of vegetative food. To evaluate whether herbivory damage to low-palatability shrubs could give us information about feral goat pressure on vegetation, we assessed the predation impact of feral goats on the shrub Euphorbia dendroides (Euphorbiaceae) on Mallorca Island (Spain). We aimed to investigate whether goats consume juvenile E. dendroides and affect their population structure and determine if the plants increase the concentrations of toxic compounds as an adaptation to herbivory. Overall, two experimental plots and analysis of eleven natural populations indicated E. dendroides is affected by ungulates and that the population structure change with the presence of feral goats. Euphorbia dendroides could be used as an ecological indicator to determine the extent of ungulate damage to vegetation or indicate poor food availability, and thus inform the maintenance of optimal animal populations. Depending on the management objective for the territory, E. dendroides could be used as an ecological indicator to determine the extent of ungulate damage to vegetation or indicate poor food availability for animals, and thus inform the maintenance of optimal animal populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147391
JournalScience of the total environment
Volume786
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Demography
  • Euphorbia dendroides
  • Herbivory
  • Mediterranean
  • Triterpenoids

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