Factors driving semi-aquatic predator occurrence in traditional cattle drinking pools: conservation issues

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Raoul Manenti *
Nicola Zanetti
Roberta Pennati
Giorgio Scarì
(*) Corresponding Author:
Raoul Manenti | raoulmanenti@gmail.com

Abstract

In several cases, human impact on water bodies and on their freshwater communities is detrimental, but in some cases the human activity may favour and enhance the biodiversity of small water bodies, as traditional cattle drinking pools. Despite their small size, small water bodies may constitute hot spot of biodiversity often representing the only lentic aquatic biotope in landscapes where superficial water lacks or flows in lotic environments like creeks and streams. Predators are good indicators of biodiversity in ponds and give information of food chain web complexity. In particular, semi-aquatic predators like amphibians and dragonflies may account for a substantial percentage of energy flow between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we evaluated the conservation value of traditional cattle drinking pools building by assessing the factors determining the occurrence and distribution of the semi-aquatic predators. From April to August 2015, we investigated 30 distinct pools recording several abiotic and biotic environmental variables. We detected 4 semi-aquatic predators: Salamandra salamandra larvae, Triturus carnifex, Aeshna sp. larvae and Libellula sp. larvae. Abiotic features played a major role in shaping the predator community that resulted linked to stable, with no dryness period, and large drinking pools. Invertebrate prey biomass was not particularly important, while vegetation cover and occurrence of unpalatable tadpoles were the most important biotic features of the pools. Our study provides novel evidence on the importance of cattle drinking pools management to preserve biodiversity especially in areas where traditional pastoral activity is disappearing.


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