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Comparing Filippi and Luiselli's (2000) method with a cartographic approach to assess the conservation status of secretive species: the case of the Iberian snake-fauna

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The conservation status of the snake fauna of a given region or territory is often hard to estimate due the secretive habits of these animals, as well as of the lack of long-term demographic studies and generally low population densities. We examined the conservation status of the snakes from the Iberian Peninsula by applying two complementary methods. The first method, created by Filippi and Luiselli for a study of the Italian snakes conservation status, takes into account the ecological and non-ecological attributes which make species vulnerable to extinction. The second is a cartographic analysis which consists of calculating two indexes derived from the comparison of old and recent citations in UTM 10 × 10 km squares of Iberian snakes by means of extensive database sets. For each species, we calculated the percentage of recent citations, and the percentage of squares with both old and recent citations. Species with low proportion of recent citations and new squares appeared to be in decline. We found considerable coincidence between the two methods in the identification of the most threatened snake species: Vipera latastei, Coronella girondica, and Natrix natrix. We suspect that the ecological specialisation and the low reproductive output make C. girondica and V. latastei prone to extinction when faced with environmental changes (i.e. habitat loss). For N. natrix, we argue that this semi-aquatic snake experiences suboptimal environmental conditions in Mediterranean habitats. A combination of both methods proved adequate to detect vulnerability to extinction of snake species, hence revealing an effective tool for establishing conservation strategies in snakes and other secretive faunas.


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