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Two introduced carnivores, the European red fox Vulpes vulpes and domestic cat Felis catus, have had extensive impacts on Australian biodiversity. In this study, we collate information on consumption of Australian birds by the fox, paralleling a recent study reporting on birds consumed by cats. We found records of consumption by foxes on 128 native bird species (18% of the non-vagrant bird fauna and 25% of those species within the fox’s range), a smaller tally than for cats (343 species, including 297 within the fox’s Australian range, a subset of that of the cat). Most (81%) bird species eaten by foxes are also eaten by cats, suggesting that predation impacts are compounded. As with consumption by cats, birds that nest or forage on the ground are most likely to be consumed by foxes. However, there is also some partitioning, with records of consumption by foxes but not cats for 25 bird species, indicating that impacts of the two predators may also be complementary. Bird species ≥3.4 kg were more likely to be eaten by foxes, and those <3.4 kg by cats. Our compilation provides an inventory and describes characteristics of Australian bird species known to be consumed by foxes, but we acknowledge that records of predation do not imply population-level impacts. Nonetheless, there is sufficient information from other studies to demonstrate that fox predation has significant impacts on the population viability of some Australian birds, especially larger birds, and those that nest or forage on the ground.
The conservation of threatened species requires information on how management activities influence habitat quality. The Critically Endangered black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis is restricted to savannahs representing c. 5% of its historical range. Fire is used extensively in savannahs but little is known about how rhinos respond to burning. Our aim was to understand rhino responses to fire by studying habitat selection and foraging at multiple scales. We used resource selection functions and locations of 31 rhinos during 2014–2016 to study rhino habitat use in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Rhino selectivity was quantified by comparing forage consumption to plant species availability in randomly sampled vegetation plots; rhino diets were subsequently verified through DNA metabarcoding analysis of faecal samples. Rhino habitat use was a unimodal function of fire history, with highly occupied sites having fire frequencies of < 0.6 fires/year and maximum occupancy occurring at a fire frequency of 0.1 fires/year. Foraging stations had characteristic plant communities, with 17 species associated with rhino foraging. Rhinos were associated with, and disproportionately consumed, woody plants, forbs and legumes, all of which decreased in abundance with increasing fire frequency. In contrast to common management practices, multiple lines of evidence suggest that the current fire regime in the Serengeti negatively influences rhino habitat use and foraging and that frequent fire limits access of rhinos to preferred forage. We outline a conceptual model to guide managers and conservationists in the use of fire under variable habitat conditions.
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