Does the Iberian Ibex influence the microscopic biodiversity of the National Park?

heces cabraIberian ibex affects their environment in several ways. The direct use of vegetation is possibly the most obvious.  Wild goats, through selective consumption of plants, help the growth of some plant species and cause the disappearance of others, generating specific plant communities. This interaction is particularly sensitive in areas with extreme conditions for vegetation such as alpine and lithophytic (i.e.: plants that grow on rocks) areas.

This interaction is not limited to the direct use of the trophic resource but is also shown in other ways. For example, the establishment of communities of some microorganisms in specific locations is another important, though little known, aspect.

cabra bebiendoMany microorganisms that live inside animals (bacteria, protists: ciliates and parasitic flagellates, etc.) visit the outside world when they are expelled with the faeces. In many cases, resistant microorganism forms (i.e. cysts) are deposited in the soil or vegetation until they are consumed by other individuals. In other cases, microorganisms enter the water cycle when the faeces are deposited directly into a river (anyone has seen cattle defecate while they are drinking) or are washed from the vegetation or soil during periods of rain or thawing.

The arrival of microorganisms in watercourses is not always direct. Sometimes they are channelled through natural water reservoirs, such as the granitic pits of La Pedriza.

heces pilaAs we saw a few days ago in this blog, the  pits are able to accumulate water and organic matter, which generate biologically relevant microhabitats which may be substantially different from those present in other natural formations. However, the peculiar location characteristics of many pits in granite boulders, limit their access to a small number of animal species, such as birds, some of the small carnivores present in the park and, especially, the ibex, which, when they rest and move about, use the granitic pits of La Pedriza taking advantage of them as natural watering holes and causing the accumulation of their faeces in these formations. Photo 3. When excess water in the pits overflows, some microorganisms flow into natural waterways: the pits act as the starting point for their spread through the territory and allow their natural dispersal.

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