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Keywords:

  • human disturbance;
  • large-scale habitat models;
  • primary productivity;
  • semi-arid steppe;
  • species distribution models;
  • wildlife–livestock conflicts

A species distribution may be determined by its responses to patterns of human disturbance as well as by its habitat preferences. Here we investigate the distribution of the Upland Goose Chloephaga picta, which has been historically persecuted by farmers and ranchers in Patagonia because it feeds on crops and pastures and is assumed to compete with sheep for forage. We assess whether its current breeding distribution is shaped by persecution by ranchers or whether it can be better explained by differences in habitat primary productivity and preference for wetlands, or by other anthropogenic disturbances not associated with ranching. We built species distribution models to examine the relative effect of environmental and anthropogenic predictors on the regional distribution of Upland Goose. We performed vehicle surveys in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, in two years, surveying 8000 km of roads and recording 6492 Geese. Generalized additive models were used to model the presence/absence of Geese in 1-km cells. The models suggested that Upland Goose distribution is not currently affected by rancher control, as the species is more abundant in areas with high sheep stocking levels, but it is positively influenced by primary productivity and negatively influenced by urban areas. Anthropogenic disturbance caused by urban areas and oil extraction camps had a greater impact in limiting the species distribution than sheep ranching.