The Raccoon Dog, an alien species, has made its way to Sweden recently. But what sort of effect does it have on the native fauna? (Image Credit: Prue Simmons, CC BY 2.0)
Nest predation by raccoon dog Nyctereutes procyonoides in the archipelago of Northern Sweden (2018) Dahl & Åhlen, Biological Invasions, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-018-1855-4
We’ve spoken about biological invasions at length on EcolMass, and the detrimental effects that the arrival of a new species can have on native populations. Yet eradication is often impossible, and management expensive, so before taking extensive action, it’s always important to ensure that an alien species IS having a negative effect.
The raccoon dog is an Asian species, closely related to foxes, that was introduced to Europe in the early 20th century and has since spread into Scandinavia. Voracious predators that could spread further north due to climate change, our paper this week looks at the extent of their impact on the ecosystems they’ve spread to.
Fear and lethality in snowshoe hares: the deadly effects of non-consumptive predation risk (2018) MacLeod et al., Oikos 127(3)
Fear itself of a predator is enough to reduce populations of a snowshoe hare, show Macleod at al. (Image Credit: Dave Doe, CC BY 2.0)
When we think of a predator-prey relationship, many colorful examples of charismatic animals come to mind: the lion and the wildebeest, the orca and the seal, the owl and the mouse. We think of these organisms locked in an endless battle, with one needing to catch and eat, the other to escape and live. While these are definitely interesting and important aspects of the predator-prey relationship, prey species need to worry about more than just being eaten. These “non-consumptive effects” play into what is called the Ecology of Fear.
This study was an attempt to show that the perceived risk of predation itself was enough to reduce survival in prey species. Unlike previous studies on this question, MacLeod et al. were the first to conclusively show this effect in mammals.