Tag Archives: habitat

On Moose Who Reproduce: To Use Or Not To Use

Guest post by Endre Grüner Ofstad

Opposing fitness consequences of habitat use in a harvested moose population (2019) Ofstad, Markussen at al., Journal of Animal Ecology, https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13221

The Crux

At the heart of our understanding of animal behaviour is Optimal Foraging Theory. It’s related to the core concepts of population ecology, and essentially asks which life history trait a species is more concerned with – survival or reproduction. For instance, often for a herbivore, the areas where they will find the most food is also the area where the most predators will be lurking. This presents them with two options – eat lots, reproduce a lot, and die young, or eat less, reproduce less (at least per year) and live longer.

On a species level we can compare mice and elephants. Yet these differences also occur within species and populations. Some individuals are more prone to high-risk strategies, while others prefer the low-risk strategy. Which strategy is the best will depend on the prevailing environment. For instance, a situation with few predators (or hunters) will favour the more risk-prone strategy, while a strong presence of predators will favour the risk-averse strategy. Populations who experience environmental variations are expected to have a composition of strategies that varies accordingly. 

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Bigger is Not Always Better in Habitat Conservation

Whilst Island Biogeography Theory originally led many to believe that larger, more connected patches of habitat are more important for species conservation, new research suggests that overlooking smaller patches could be dangerous (Image Credit: LuxTonnerre, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)

Global synthesis of conservation studies reveals the importance of small habitat patches for biodiversity (2019) Wintle et al., PNAS, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1813051115

The Crux

Human land use over the past millenia has divided species habitats into smaller and smaller patches – a practice which often leaves conservationists with the tough choice of which remaining patches they should focus their efforts on. Traditional practice has seen the prioritisation of large patches that are well connected to other, with this preference often meaning that smaller more isolated patches are neglected, and often cleared.

This week’s paper authors wanted to check whether this was really the best way of doing things, by looking at the relative conservation value of a variety of habitat patches.

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Killing 2 Million Cats: When Broad Targets Aren’t Enough

Image Credit: Joey Doll, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped

Conservation or politics? Australia’s target to kill 2 million cats (2019) Doherty et al., Conservation Letters, https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12633

The Crux

We’ve talked a lot lately about competition between causes on Ecology for the Masses. Often when extra attention is given to one cause over another equally valid cause, it’s a product of social trends coinciding at the right time, sudden events capturing the public interest (think the Notre Dame fire) or a particularly effective marketing campaign. But sometimes a cause or a conservation target can be used to deliberately distract the public from another cause, and it’s a potential example of this that we’re looking at today.

Australia has long had an issue with cats. They’ve decimated populations of native species, playing a large hand in the extinction of many species found nowhere else. So it makes sense that part of Australia’s first Threatened Species Strategy would be to minimise the impact of cat populations on local wildlife. The strategy included a target of 2 million cats being killed between 2015 and 2020. Whilst this might sound like a reasonable goal, this paper argues that the actual scientific evidence supporting the target is pretty weak, and goes into some alternatives and motives.

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Hvorfor er dyr hvor de er?

Image Credit: Endre Gruner Ofstad, CC BY-SA 2.0

Guest post by Endre Grüner Ofstad. English version here.

Use, selection, and home range properties: complex patterns of individual habitat utilization (2019) Endre Ofstad et al., Ecosphere, 10(4), https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2695

Det essensielle

Stedene man finner dyr omtales gjerne som dyrets habitat. Habitat er et relativt vagt begrep. Hvor individ oppholder er som regel et utfall av en rekke vurderinger: hvor finner en mat, hvor unngår man rovdyr og hvor finner man noen å parre seg. Individ avveier blant disse for å maksimere hvor mange avkom de kan tilføre fremtidige generasjoner (også kalt for ‘fitness’).

Når vi skal vurdere hvilke habitat dyr befinner seg i så jobber vi som regel med habitatseleksjon. Habitatseleksjon er hvor mye et habitat blir brukt i forhold til hvor tilgjengelig det er, dvs. hva er den relative sannsynligheten for at et dyr vil bruke et habitat hvis det får muligheten. Hvor mye tid et individ velger å bruke (eller tettheten av individ) i et habitat er som regel en god indikator på hvor viktig et gitt habitat er. Habitatseleksjon blir derfor ofte brukt til å identifisere hvilke habitat forvaltningen bør iverksette tiltak.

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Why are animals where they are?

Image Credit: Endre Gruner Ofstad, CC BY-SA 2.0

Guest post by Endre Grüner Ofstad. Norwegian version available here.

Use, selection, and home range properties: complex patterns of individual habitat utilization (2019) Endre Ofstad et al., Ecosphere, 10(4), https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2695

The Crux

The areas in which we find an animal is often called its ‘habitat’. Yet it’s a fairly ambiguous term. Where animals are found is usually the outcome of a range of considerations, primarily foraging, predator avoidance and mating opportunities. Animals trade-off among these in order to maximise their contribution to future generations (i.e. ‘fitness’).

When considering which habitats we most likely find animals one often works with habitat selection. Habitat selection is how much a certain habitat type is used compared to its availability, i.e. what is the relative probability that an animal will use a given habitat upon encounter. The amount of time an individual spends (or density of individuals) in a habitat is usually a good proxy for the importance the habitat to the animals. Therefore we often use this to evaluate which areas to target for management and conservation efforts.

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Frivillig vern sin rolle i naturvern

Image Credit: Endre Grüner Ofstad, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped

Guest post by Endre Grüner Ofstad.

Privately protected areas provide key opportunities for the regional persistence of large‐ and medium‐sized mammals (2018) Clements et al., Journal of Applied Ecology, 56(3), https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13300

Det Essensielle

Da mennesker slo seg ned i nye områder, bosatte de seg som regel i de mest produktive og artsrike områdene. I dag, mange år senere, er disse områdene fortsatt produktive og i private hender. I dag, derimot, blir flere og flere arter utrydningstruet og vi iverksetter tiltak for å redusere tapet av arter. Et av disse tiltakene er verneområder. Verneområder er områder som er satt til side for å sikre tilstedeværelse av gitte arter eller naturtyper ved å begrense høsting eller annen menneskelig innflytelse. Utfordringen er at dette ofte er kostbart da disse artsrike områdene ofte overlapper med områder som har viktige jordbruk- eller andre naturressursinteresser. Dette resulterer i at vernede områder ofte blir lagt til økonomisk marginale og/eller statseide områder. For å kontre dette kan en inkludere områder tilbudt frivillig av grunneiere. Spørsmålet blir da, hva er verneverdien av de områdene som blir tilbudt? Dette er spørsmålet som Clements og medforfatterne spør seg når jobber med Cape Floraregion i Sør-Afrika .

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The Role of Private Property in Conservation

Image Credit: Endre Grüner Ofstad,CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped

Guest post by Endre Grüner Ofstad. Norwegian version available here.

Privately protected areas provide key opportunities for the regional persistence of large‐ and medium‐sized mammals (2018) Clements et al., Journal of Applied Ecology, 56(3), https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13300

The Crux

When humans settle down in new areas, they usually settled in the most productive and species-rich areas. Now, years later, these productive areas are usually still productive, but often still in private hands. However, today more and more species are facing extinction, and many would be helped by the protection of these areas. Protected areas are areas that are set aside to ensure the viability of certain species by limiting human exploitation of the local natural resources. However, this might be costly, and these hot-spot areas likely overlap with agricultural or other natural resource exploitations, with the result that protected areas are often located to economical marginal and state-owned lands. To counter this, one might include lands offered voluntarily by private owners. But are the lands they’re offering of any conservation value?

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