Increasing land-use intensity reverses the relative occupancy of two quadrupedal scavengers

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Citation:
Twining JP, Bernard H, Ewers RM (2017) Increasing land-use intensity reverses the relative occupancy of two quadrupedal scavengers. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177143. https://doi.org/10.1371/ journal.pone.0177143


Human land use is continuously altering the natural environment, yet the greater ecological
implications of this change for many groups that are key to healthy ecosystem functioning
remains uncharacterised in the tropics. Terrestrial scavenging vertebrates are one such
group, providing integral ecosystem services through the removal of carrion which is a crucial
component of both nutrient cycling and disease dynamics. To explore how anthropogenic
processes may affect forest scavengers, we investigated the changes in the relative
occupancy of two important terrestrial scavengers along a gradient of land use intensity,
ranging from protected forest to oil palm plantation in Borneo. We found the Malay civet
(Viverra tangalunga) had highest, albeit variable, occupancy in areas of low land use intensity
and the Southeast Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus) had highest
occupancy in areas of high land use intensity. Land use had no effect on the combined occupancy
of the two species. In high land use intensity sites, individual water monitors were
larger and had better body condition, but at population level had a highly biased sex ratio
with more males than females and increased signs of intraspecific conflict. We did not
assess scavenging rate or efficiency as a process, but the high occupancy rates and apparent
health of the scavengers in high land use intensity landscapes suggests this ecological
process is robust to land use change.