The American mink (Neovison vison) is responsible for the widespread decline of its prey species in the regions where it is an invasive species. The current expansion of the mink in the Iberian Peninsula has aroused concern among conservationists about its negative impact on the rich native fauna. However, evidence for this is still scarce, although there are several studies establishing a direct causal relationship between declining native species and the presence of the American mink. Thus, it is important to further investigate the responses of native species to the American mink in several habitats and locations to enhance our knowledge about the patterns of the effect of the mink in Spain, as well as to inform conservation actions. A field study of the impact of the American mink on a mountainous vertebrate community in central Spain is presented. We studied six species: two fish, one amphibian, one bird, and two mammals. The general results showed a species-specific sensitivity to mink presence, with the Mediterranean water shrew (Neomys anomalus) and the southern water vole (Arvicola sapidus) being the most affected because their ranges were significantly decreased after the introduction of the mink. Regarding the other species, neither their abundance nor range was apparently affected by the American mink. The predatory behavior of the mink and interactions with other carnivores could account for these results. These data aid in shedding light about the current impact of the mink on invaded areas of the Iberian Peninsula and highlight the variability of its effects, as well as the urgent need to establish a general program of control of the mink to avoid negative effects upon native prey communities. Furthermore, given the different responses of native species, we propose that measures to protect native species should be based on species-specific goals and attributes.
Bibliographical noteWe wish to thank Paul Chanin and Johnny Birks for their respective critical reviews of our drafts, Christian Gortázar and two anonymous reviewers, whose comments highly improved our work, G. Hernández, and I. Mateos for their help and support during the fieldwork. This work was partially supported by the projects “Distribución y estado de conservación de los vertebrados bioindicadores y amenazados de los medios acuáticos de las sierras de la provincia de Salamanca (Key: 18.JCY4 463A.C.03.Orden EDU/940/2009)” of the Government of the Junta de Castilla y León, Spain and “Estudio de la distribución y estado de conservación del desmán ibérico (Galemys pyrenaicus) en la provincia de Salamanca” Asociación Galemia–Universidad de Salamanca. PG-D is funded by an IPRS/APA scholarship by the Commonwealth Government of Australia (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations) and an Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre scholarship.
- evidence-based conservation
- invasive species