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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Restocking a keystone species in a biodiversity hotspot: ecovering the European rabbit on a landscape scale

Published source details

Guerrero-Casado J., Carpio A.J., Ruiz-Aizpurua L. & Tortosa F.S. (2013) Restocking a keystone species in a biodiversity hotspot: ecovering the European rabbit on a landscape scale. Journal for Nature Conservation, 21, 444-448


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Release translocated/captive-bred mammals into area with artificial refuges/breeding sites Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, site comparison study in 2008–2012 in 32 shrubland sites in Andalusia, Spain (Guerrero-Casado et al. 2013) found that release sites with shelter and artificial warrens provided had higher abundances of European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus following translocation. There were more rabbit latrines at sites where artificial warrens and wooden branches were provided (1.6–7.1 latrines/km) than at sites where they were not provided (0.3–3.4 latrines/km), although the size of the effect was less when scrub coverage was high (see original paper for details). In 2008–2009, between 75 and 90 rabbits/ha were released inside 32 fenced plots (0.5–7.7 ha). Artificial warrens and wooden branches were added within a 500-m radius of some plots and, in some sites, scrubland was cleared to create pasture (number of plots/treatment not stated). Twelve plots had no wooden branches or artificial warrens (wooden pallets covered with stones, branches and earth) added. From the end of the 2009 breeding season, small gates on fences were opened and the rabbits could disperse into adjacent areas. Relative rabbit abundance was estimated by latrine counts, in four 500-m transects outside each plot, in the summers of 2008–2009 and 2012. Scrub cover was classified as low (0-30% coverage), medium (30-60%) and high (>60%).

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Remove vegetation by hand/machine Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, site comparison study in 2008–2012 in grassland and scrubland along a mountain chain in Andalusia, Spain (Guerrero-Casado et al. 2013) found that removing scrubland vegetation to create pasture increased abundances of translocated European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus in areas of high scrub coverage but not of medium- or low-scrub coverage. In high scrub cover areas, there were more rabbits around plots where scrub was cleared (5.9 latrines/km) than where scrub was not cleared (2.6 latrines/km). There was no significant difference in rabbit abundance in areas of medium cover scrub (scrub clearance: 7.1 pellets/km; no scrub clearance: 5.0 pellets/km) or low scrub cover (scrub clearance: 1.6 pellets/km; no scrub clearance: 2.1 pellets/km). In autumn and winter of 2008–2009, between 75 and 90 rabbits/ha were released into fenced plots (0.5–7.7 ha). Wooden branches and artificial warrens were added within a 500-m radius outside plots and, at some, scrubland was cleared to create pasture (number of plots/treatment and pasture sizes not reported). At the end of each breeding season in 2009–2011, small gates allowed rabbits to disperse through fences into adjacent areas. Rabbit abundance was estimated by latrine counts in four 500-m-long transects around each plot, in summer 2012.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)

Use holding pens at release site prior to release of translocated mammals Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, before-and-after study in 2008–2012 in 32 shrubland sites in Andalusia, Spain (Guerrero-Casado et al. 2013) found that following release from holding pens with artificial warrens to boost a local population, translocated European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus abundance was higher after three years. Rabbit abundance was around nine-fold higher three years after translocations (9.3 latrines/km) than before translocation (1.0 latrines/km). In autumn and winter of 2008–2009, between 75 and 90 rabbits/ha were released into artificial warrens located in 32 electric-fenced 0.5-7.7 ha plots (fencing was 0.5 m below ground and 1.7 m above ground). At the end of the 2009–2011 breeding season, small gates on the fences were opened and the rabbits were allowed to disperse into adjacent areas. Rabbit abundance was estimated by latrine counts along four 500-m transects (128 total transects) around each plot, in the summers of 2008–2009 before gates were opened and in 2012 after gates were opened. Wooden branches and artificial warrens were added within a 500-m radius of some plots and, in some, scrub was cleared to create pasture.

(Summarised by Phil Martin)