Soil δ13C and δ15N baselines clarify biogeographic heterogeneity in isotopic discrimination of European badgers (Meles meles)

Shay T. Mullineaux, Berit Kostka, Luc Rock, Neil Ogle, Nikki J. Marks, Rory Doherty, Chris Harrod, W. Ian Montgomery, D. Michael Scantlebury

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Isotopic techniques have been used to study phenomena in the geological, environmental, and ecological sciences. For example, isotopic values of multiple elements elucidate the pathways energy and nutrients take in the environment. Isoscapes interpolate isotopic values across a geographical surface and are used to study environmental processes in space and time. Thus, isoscapes can reveal ecological shifts at local scales, and show distribution thresholds in the wider environment at the macro-scale. This study demonstrates a further application of isoscapes, using soil isoscapes of 13C/12C and 15N/14N as an environmental baseline, to understand variation in trophic ecology across a population of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) at a regional scale. The use of soil isoscapes reduced error, and elevated the statistical signal, where aggregated badger hairs were used, and where individuals were identified using genetic microarray analysis. Stable isotope values were affected by land-use type, elevation, and meteorology. Badgers in lowland habitats had diets richer in protein and were adversely affected by poor weather conditions in all land classes. It is concluded that soil isoscapes are an effective way of reducing confounding biases in macroscale, isotopic studies. The method elucidated variation in the trophic and spatial ecology of economically important taxa at a landscape level. These results have implications for the management of badgers and other carnivores with omnivorous tendencies in heterogeneous landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number200
JournalNature Scientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jan 2022


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