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Keywords:

  • Herpestes ichneumon;
  • Lynx pardinus;
  • path analysis;
  • regional scale;
  • spatial relationships

Summary

  • We used path analysis to investigate the causal relationships between Iberian lynx and Egyptian mongoose track numbers, and to estimate the direct effect of the former on the latter in the Doñana area (2750 km2), south-western Spain. Relative abundance of rabbits, shrub cover and protection level were also considered in the path analysis.

  • An observational study consisting of a repeated track survey with a split-plot design was also carried out between 1990 and 1996 to independently test the results obtained by path analysis.

  • Maximum likelihood ratio tests of the goodness-of-fit of the model to the data and other indices used all indicated that the proposed theoretical model depicting the relationships among variables was adequate. Egyptian mongooses suffered a significant direct negative effect from lynx, and rabbits and protection level positively, and significantly affected lynx track abundance; rabbits were also significantly affected by shrub cover (all these standardized partial correlation coefficients ranged from 0.34 to 0.41). Shrub cover did not directly affect either lynx or mongoose tracks.

  • Relatively important indirect effects were found between shrubs and lynx (0.12), and between rabbits and mongooses (−0.14), and protection and mongooses (−0.17). The two latter non-intuitive indirect effects were through the lynx path, as a consequence of the negative direct influence of lynx on mongooses.

  • The repeated track censuses confirmed that lynx presence significantly affects number of mongoose tracks. In areas without lynx, mean number of mongoose tracks were 3.6 times higher than in areas with lynx.

  • It remains an interesting question which of several proposed hypotheses explains co-existence of both species in south-western Spain.