Publications by authors named "Heiko U Wittmer"

21 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Vital rates of two small populations of brown bears in Canada and range-wide relationship between population size and trend.

Ecol Evol 2021 Apr 10;11(7):3422-3434. Epub 2021 Mar 10.

School of Biological Sciences Victoria University of Wellington Wellington New Zealand.

Identifying mechanisms of population change is fundamental for conserving small and declining populations and determining effective management strategies. Few studies, however, have measured the demographic components of population change for small populations of mammals (<50 individuals). We estimated vital rates and trends in two adjacent but genetically distinct, threatened brown bear () populations in British Columbia, Canada, following the cessation of hunting. One population had approximately 45 resident bears but had some genetic and geographic connectivity to neighboring populations, while the other population had <25 individuals and was isolated. We estimated population-specific vital rates by monitoring survival and reproduction of telemetered female bears and their dependent offspring from 2005 to 2018. In the larger, connected population, independent female survival was 1.00 (95% CI: 0.96-1.00) and the survival of cubs in their first year was 0.85 (95% CI: 0.62-0.95). In the smaller, isolated population, independent female survival was 0.81 (95% CI: 0.64-0.93) and first-year cub survival was 0.33 (95% CI: 0.11-0.67). Reproductive rates did not differ between populations. The large differences in age-specific survival estimates resulted in a projected population increase in the larger population ( = 1.09; 95% CI: 1.04-1.13) and population decrease in the smaller population ( = 0.84; 95% CI: 0.72-0.95). Low female survival in the smaller population was the result of both continued human-caused mortality and an unusually high rate of natural mortality. Low cub survival may have been due to inbreeding and the loss of genetic diversity common in small populations, or to limited resources. In a systematic literature review, we compared our population trend estimates with those reported for other small populations (<300 individuals) of brown bears. Results suggest that once brown bear populations become small and isolated, populations rarely increase and, even with intensive management, recovery remains challenging.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7301DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8019027PMC
April 2021

Reintroduced wolves and hunting limit the abundance of a subordinate apex predator in a multi-use landscape.

Proc Biol Sci 2020 11 11;287(1938):20202202. Epub 2020 Nov 11.

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

Top-down effects of apex predators are modulated by human impacts on community composition and species abundances. Consequently, research supporting top-down effects of apex predators occurs almost entirely within protected areas rather than the multi-use landscapes dominating modern ecosystems. Here, we developed an integrated population model to disentangle the concurrent contributions of a reintroduced apex predator, the grey wolf, human hunting and prey abundances on vital rates and abundance of a subordinate apex predator, the puma. Increasing wolf numbers had strong negative effects on puma fecundity, and subadult and adult survival. Puma survival was also influenced by density dependence. Overall, puma dynamics in our multi-use landscape were more strongly influenced by top-down forces exhibited by a reintroduced apex predator, than by human hunting or bottom-up forces (prey abundance) subsidized by humans. Quantitatively, the average annual impact of human hunting on equilibrium puma abundance was equivalent to the effects of 20 wolves. Historically, wolves may have limited pumas across North America and dictated puma scarcity in systems lacking sufficient refugia to mitigate the effects of competition.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2020.2202DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735271PMC
November 2020

Scavenging in the Anthropocene: Human impact drives vertebrate scavenger species richness at a global scale.

Glob Chang Biol 2019 09 24;25(9):3005-3017. Epub 2019 Jun 24.

Ornithology Section, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya.

Understanding the distribution of biodiversity across the Earth is one of the most challenging questions in biology. Much research has been directed at explaining the species latitudinal pattern showing that communities are richer in tropical areas; however, despite decades of research, a general consensus has not yet emerged. In addition, global biodiversity patterns are being rapidly altered by human activities. Here, we aim to describe large-scale patterns of species richness and diversity in terrestrial vertebrate scavenger (carrion-consuming) assemblages, which provide key ecosystem functions and services. We used a worldwide dataset comprising 43 sites, where vertebrate scavenger assemblages were identified using 2,485 carcasses monitored between 1991 and 2018. First, we evaluated how scavenger richness (number of species) and diversity (Shannon diversity index) varied among seasons (cold vs. warm, wet vs. dry). Then, we studied the potential effects of human impact and a set of macroecological variables related to climatic conditions on the scavenger assemblages. Vertebrate scavenger richness ranged from species-poor to species rich assemblages (4-30 species). Both scavenger richness and diversity also showed some seasonal variation. However, in general, climatic variables did not drive latitudinal patterns, as scavenger richness and diversity were not affected by temperature or rainfall. Rainfall seasonality slightly increased the number of species in the community, but its effect was weak. Instead, the human impact index included in our study was the main predictor of scavenger richness. Scavenger assemblages in highly human-impacted areas sustained the smallest number of scavenger species, suggesting human activity may be overriding other macroecological processes in shaping scavenger communities. Our results highlight the effect of human impact at a global scale. As species-rich assemblages tend to be more functional, we warn about possible reductions in ecosystem functions and the services provided by scavengers in human-dominated landscapes in the Anthropocene.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14708DOI Listing
September 2019

Multiple anthropogenic interventions drive puma survival following wolf recovery in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Ecol Evol 2018 Jul 25;8(14):7236-7245. Epub 2018 Jun 25.

School of Biological Sciences Victoria University of Wellington Wellington New Zealand.

Humans are primary drivers of declining abundances and extirpation of large carnivores worldwide. Management interventions to restore biodiversity patterns, however, include carnivore reintroductions, despite the many unresolved ecological consequences associated with such efforts. Using multistate capture-mark-recapture models, we explored age-specific survival and cause-specific mortality rates for 134 pumas () monitored in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem during gray wolf () recovery. We identified two top models explaining differences in puma survivorship, and our results suggested three management interventions (unsustainable puma hunting, reduction in a primary prey, and reintroduction of a dominant competitor) have unintentionally impacted puma survival. Specifically, puma survival across age classes was lower in the 6-month hunting season than the 6-month nonhunting season; human-caused mortality rates for juveniles and adults, and predation rates on puma kittens, were higher in the hunting season. Predation on puma kittens, and starvation rates for all pumas, also increased as managers reduced elk () abundance in the system, highlighting direct and indirect effects of competition between recovering wolves and pumas over prey. Our results emphasize the importance of understanding the synergistic effects of existing management strategies and the recovery of large, dominant carnivores to effectively conserve subordinate, hunted carnivores in human-dominated landscapes.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4264DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065371PMC
July 2018

Analyses of phenotypic differentiations among South Georgian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus) populations reveal an undescribed and highly endangered species from New Zealand.

PLoS One 2018 27;13(6):e0197766. Epub 2018 Jun 27.

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.

Unresolved taxonomy of threatened species is problematic for conservation as the field relies on species being distinct taxonomic units. Differences in breeding habitat and results from a preliminary molecular analysis indicated that the New Zealand population of the South Georgian Diving Petrel (Pelecanoides georgicus) was a distinct, yet undescribed, species. We measured 11 biometric characters and scored eight plumage characters in 143 live birds and 64 study skins originating from most populations of P. georgicus, to assess their taxonomic relationships. We analysed differences with principal component analyses (PCA), factorial ANOVAs, and Kruskal-Wallis rank sum tests. Results show that individuals from New Zealand differ significantly from P. georgicus from all other populations as following: 1) longer wings, 2) longer outer tail feathers, 3) deeper bills, 4) longer heads, 5) longer tarsi, 6) limited collar extent, 7) greater extent of contrasting scapulars, 8) larger contrasting markings on the secondaries, 9) paler ear coverts, 10) paler collars, and 11) paler flanks. Furthermore, we used a species delimitation test with quantitative phenotypic criteria; results reveal that the New Zealand population of P. georgicus indeed merits species status. We hereby name this new species Pelecanoides whenuahouensis sp. nov. Due to severe reductions in its range and the very low number of remaining birds (~150 individuals limited to a single breeding colony on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou) the species warrants listing as 'Critically Endangered'. An abstract in the Māori language/Te Reo Māori can be found in S1 File.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0197766PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021066PMC
November 2018

The importance of motivation, weapons, and foul odors in driving encounter competition in carnivores.

Ecology 2016 Aug;97(8):1905-1912

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, 6140, New Zealand.

Encounter competition is interference competition in which animals directly contend for resources. Ecological theory predicts the trait that determines the resource holding potential (RHP), and hence the winner of encounter competition, is most often body size or mass. The difficulties of observing encounter competition in complex organisms in natural environments, however, has limited opportunities to test this theory across diverse species. We studied the outcome of encounter competition contests among mesocarnivores at deer carcasses in California to determine the most important variables for winning these contests. We found some support for current theory in that body mass is important in determining the winner of encounter competition, but we found that other factors including hunger and species-specific traits were also important. In particular, our top models were "strength and hunger" and "size and hunger," with models emphasizing the complexity of variables influencing outcomes of encounter competition. In addition, our wins above predicted (WAP) statistic suggests that an important aspect that determines the winner of encounter competition is species-specific advantages that increase their RHP, as bobcats (Lynx rufus) and spotted skunks (Spilogale gracilis) won more often than predicted based on mass. In complex organisms, such as mesocarnivores, species-specific adaptations, including strategic behaviors, aggressiveness, and weapons, contribute to competitive advantages and may allow certain species to take control or defend resources better than others. Our results help explain how interspecific competition shapes the occurrence patterns of species in ecological communities.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.1462DOI Listing
August 2016

Scent marking in Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi): novel observations close a key gap in understanding felid communication behaviours.

Sci Rep 2016 10 14;6:35433. Epub 2016 Oct 14.

Department of Anthropology, Program in the Environment, and School for Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109, USA.

Intraspecific communication is integral to the behavioural ecology of solitary carnivores, but observing and quantifying their communication behaviours in natural environments is difficult. Our systematic literature review found that basic information on scent marking is completely lacking for 23% of all felid species, and information on 21% of other felid species comes solely from one study of captive animals. Here we present results of the first systematic investigation of the scent marking behaviours of Sunda clouded leopards in the wild. Our observations using motion-triggered video cameras in Indonesian Borneo are novel for clouded leopards, and contrary to previous descriptions of their behaviour. We found that clouded leopards displayed 10 distinct communication behaviours, with olfaction, scraping, and cheek rubbing the most frequently recorded. We also showed that males make repeated visits to areas they previously used for marking and that multiple males advertise and receive information at the same sites, potentially enhancing our ability to document and monitor clouded leopard populations. The behaviours we recorded are remarkably similar to those described in other solitary felids, despite tremendous variation in the environments they inhabit, and close a key gap in understanding and interpreting communication behaviours of clouded leopards and other solitary felids.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep35433DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064369PMC
October 2016

The Role of Scent Marking in Mate Selection by Female Pumas (Puma concolor).

PLoS One 2015 21;10(10):e0139087. Epub 2015 Oct 21.

Center for Integrated Spatial Research, Environmental Studies Department, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, United States of America.

Mate selection influences individual fitness, is often based on complex cues and behaviours, and can be difficult to study in solitary species including carnivores. We used motion-triggered cameras at 29 community scrapes (i.e. scent marking locations used by multiple individuals) and home range data from 39 GPS-collared pumas (Puma concolor) to assess the relevance of communication behaviours for mate selection by female pumas in California. Female pumas visited community scrapes irregularly and visitation bouts appeared to be correlated with oestrus. Female pumas on average selected from 1.7 collared males, and selection was based on multiple cues that varied among the different time periods measured (i.e. the female's visitation bout and in 90 days previous to the consorting event). Female mate selection over the course of a visitation bout was based on frequency of the male visitation, mass, and age. In the 90 days previous to consorting, the number of scrapes a male created was the most important contributor to selection, which was likely related to his residency status. We also found that at least 14% of females mated with multiple males, thus possibly confusing paternity. Our findings provide a mechanistic understanding of how female pumas use scent and auditory communication at community scrapes to select dominant resident males to mate with.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139087PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4619504PMC
June 2016

The comparative effects of large carnivores on the acquisition of carrion by scavengers.

Am Nat 2015 Jun 19;185(6):822-33. Epub 2015 Mar 19.

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand.

Pumas (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) are large carnivores that may influence scavenger population dynamics. We used motion-triggered video cameras deployed at deer carcasses to determine how pumas and black bears affected three aspects of carrion acquisition by scavengers: presence, total feeding time, and mean feeding-bout duration. We found that pumas were unable to limit acquisition of carrion by large carnivores but did limit aspects of carrion acquisition by both birds and mesocarnivores. Through their suppression of mesocarnivores and birds, pumas apparently initiated a cascading pattern and increased carrion acquisition by small carnivores. In contrast, black bears monopolized carrion resources and generally had larger limiting effects on carrion acquisition by all scavengers. Black bears also limited puma feeding behaviors at puma kills, which may require pumas to compensate for energetic losses through increasing their kill rates of ungulates. Our results suggest that pumas provide carrion and selectively influence species acquiring carrion, while black bears limit carrion availability to all other scavengers. These results suggest that the effects of large carnivores on scavengers depend on attributes of both carnivores and scavengers (including size) and that competition for carcasses may result in intraguild predation as well as mesocarnivore release.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/681004DOI Listing
June 2015

Using predator-prey theory to predict outcomes of broadscale experiments to reduce apparent competition.

Am Nat 2015 May 6;185(5):665-79. Epub 2015 Mar 6.

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.

Apparent competition is an important process influencing many ecological communities. We used predator-prey theory to predict outcomes of ecosystem experiments aimed at mitigating apparent competition by reducing primary prey. Simulations predicted declines in secondary prey following reductions in primary prey because predators consumed more secondary prey until predator numbers responded to reduced prey densities. Losses were exacerbated by a higher carrying capacity of primary prey and a longer lag time of the predator's numerical response, but a gradual reduction in primary prey was less detrimental to the secondary prey. We compared predictions against two field experiments where endangered woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) were victims of apparent competition. First, when deer (Odocoileus sp.) declined suddenly following a severe winter, cougar (Puma concolor) declined with a 1-2-year lag, yet in the interim more caribou were killed by cougars, and caribou populations declined by 40%. Second, when moose (Alces alces) were gradually reduced using a management experiment, wolf (Canis lupus) populations declined but did not shift consumption to caribou, and the largest caribou subpopulation stabilized. The observed contrasting outcomes of sudden versus gradual declines in primary prey supported theoretical predictions. Combining theory with field studies clarified how to manage communities to mitigate endangerment caused by apparent competition that affects many taxa.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/680510DOI Listing
May 2015

Trophic facilitation or limitation? Comparative effects of pumas and black bears on the scavenger community.

PLoS One 2014 10;9(7):e102257. Epub 2014 Jul 10.

School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.

Scavenging is a widespread behaviour and an important process influencing food webs and ecological communities. Large carnivores facilitate the movement of energy across trophic levels through the scavenging and decomposition of their killed prey, but competition with large carnivores is also likely to constrain acquisition of carrion by scavengers. We used an experimental approach based on motion-triggered video cameras at black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) carcasses to measure the comparative influences of two large carnivores in the facilitation and limitation of carrion acquisition by scavengers. We found that pumas (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus) had different effects on their ecological communities. Pumas, as a top-level predator, facilitated the consumption of carrion by scavengers, despite significantly reducing their observed sum feeding times (165.7 min ± 21.2 SE at puma kills 264.3 min ± 30.1 SE at control carcasses). In contrast, black bears, as the dominant scavenger in the system, limited consumption of carrion by scavengers as evidenced by the observed reduction of scavenger species richness recorded at carcasses where they were present (mean = 2.33 ± 0.28 SE), compared to where they were absent (mean = 3.28 ± 0.23 SE). Black bears also had large negative effects on scavenger sum feeding times (88.5 min ± 19.8 SE at carcasses where bears were present, 372.3 min ± 50.0 SE at carcasses where bears were absent). In addition, we found that pumas and black bears both increased the nestedness (a higher level of order among species present) of the scavenger community. Our results suggest that scavengers have species-specific adaptions to exploit carrion despite large carnivores, and that large carnivores influence the structure and composition of scavenger communities. The interactions between large carnivores and scavengers should be considered in future studies of food webs and ecological communities.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102257PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4092109PMC
November 2015

Nuisance ecology: do scavenging condors exact foraging costs on pumas in Patagonia?

PLoS One 2013 3;8(1):e53595. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California Davis, Davis, California, United States of America.

Predation risk describes the energetic cost an animal suffers when making a trade off between maximizing energy intake and minimizing threats to its survival. We tested whether Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) influenced the foraging behaviors of a top predator in Patagonia, the puma (Puma concolor), in ways comparable to direct risks of predation for prey to address three questions: 1) Do condors exact a foraging cost on pumas?; 2) If so, do pumas exhibit behaviors indicative of these risks?; and 3) Do pumas display predictable behaviors associated with prey species foraging in risky environments? Using GPS location data, we located 433 kill sites of 9 pumas and quantified their kill rates. Based upon time pumas spent at a carcass, we quantified handling time. Pumas abandoned >10% of edible meat at 133 of 266 large carcasses after a single night, and did so most often in open grasslands where their carcasses were easily detected by condors. Our data suggested that condors exacted foraging costs on pumas by significantly decreasing puma handling times at carcasses, and that pumas increased their kill rates by 50% relative to those reported for North America to compensate for these losses. Finally, we determined that the relative risks of detection and associated harassment by condors, rather than prey densities, explained puma "giving up times" (GUTs) across structurally variable risk classes in the study area, and that, like many prey species, pumas disproportionately hunted in high-risk, high-resource reward areas.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0053595PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3536754PMC
August 2013

Conservation strategies for species affected by apparent competition.

Conserv Biol 2013 Apr 2;27(2):254-60. Epub 2013 Jan 2.

School of Biological Science, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand.

Apparent competition is an indirect interaction between 2 or more prey species through a shared predator, and it is increasingly recognized as a mechanism of the decline and extinction of many species. Through case studies, we evaluated the effectiveness of 4 management strategies for species affected by apparent competition: predator control, reduction in the abundances of alternate prey, simultaneous control of predators and alternate prey, and no active management of predators or alternate prey. Solely reducing predator abundances rapidly increased abundances of alternate and rare prey, but observed increases are likely short-lived due to fast increases in predator abundance following the cessation of control efforts. Substantial reductions of an abundant alternate prey resulted in increased predation on endangered huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) deer in Chilean Patagonia, which highlights potential risks associated with solely reducing alternate prey species. Simultaneous removal of predators and alternate prey increased survival of island foxes (Urocyon littoralis) in California (U.S.A.) above a threshold required for population recovery. In the absence of active management, populations of rare woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) continued to decline in British Columbia, Canada. On the basis of the cases we examined, we suggest the simultaneous control of predators and alternate prey is the management strategy most likely to increase abundances and probabilities of persistence of rare prey over the long term. Knowing the mechanisms driving changes in species' abundances before implementing any management intervention is critical. We suggest scientists can best contribute to the conservation of species affected by apparent competition by clearly communicating the biological and demographic forces at play to policy makers responsible for the implementation of proposed management actions.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12005DOI Listing
April 2013

Table scraps: inter-trophic food provisioning by pumas.

Biol Lett 2012 Oct 13;8(5):776-9. Epub 2012 Jun 13.

Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

Large carnivores perform keystone ecological functions through direct predation, or indirectly, through food subsidies to scavengers or trophic cascades driven by their influence on the distributions of their prey. Pumas (Puma concolor) are an elusive, cryptic species difficult to study and little is known about their inter-trophic-level interactions in natural communities. Using new GPS technology, we discovered that pumas in Patagonia provided 232 ± 31 kg of edible meat/month/100 km(2) to near-threatened Andean condors (Vultur gryphus) and other members of a diverse scavenger community. This is up to 3.1 times the contributions by wolves (Canis lupus) to communities in Yellowstone National Park, USA, and highlights the keystone role large, solitary felids play in natural systems. These findings are more pertinent than ever, for managers increasingly advocate controlling pumas and other large felids to bolster prey populations and mitigate concerns over human and livestock safety, without a full understanding of the potential ecological consequences of their actions.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0423DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3440996PMC
October 2012

Implications of body condition on the unsustainable predation rates of endangered mountain caribou.

Oecologia 2012 Jul 20;169(3):853-60. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Columbia Mountains Caribou Project, 4667 Carlson Rd., Nelson, BC, V1L 6X3, Canada.

Both top-down and bottom-up processes influence herbivore populations, and identifying dominant limiting factors is essential for applying effective conservation actions. Mountain caribou are an endangered ecotype of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) that have been declining, and unsustainable predation has been identified as the proximate cause. To investigate the role of poor nutrition, we examined the influence of sex, season, age class, and available suitable habitat (i.e., old-growth forest>140 years) per caribou on bone marrow fat content of caribou that died (n = 79). Sex was the only strong predictor of marrow fat. Males that died during and post rut had lower marrow fat than females or males at other times of year. Old-growth abundance per caribou, season, and age class did not predict marrow fat. Caribou killed by predators did not have less marrow fat than those that died in accidents, suggesting that nutritionally stressed caribou were not foraging in less secure habitats or that predators selected nutritionally stressed individuals. Marrow fat in endangered and declining populations of mountain caribou was similar to caribou in other, more viable populations. Our results support previous research suggesting that observed population declines of mountain caribou are due to excessive predation that is not linked to body condition.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-011-2227-2DOI Listing
July 2012

A restricted hybrid zone between native and introduced red fox (Vulpes vulpes) populations suggests reproductive barriers and competitive exclusion.

Mol Ecol 2011 Jan 9;20(2):326-41. Epub 2010 Dec 9.

Center for Veterinary Genetics, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

Introduced species can threaten native taxa in multiple ways, including competition and hybridization, which can reduce fitness, alter ecological niches or swamp native genomes. Encroachment and hybridization by introduced species also provide opportunities to study the dynamics of invasiveness and hybridization during early stages following contact. We used 33 microsatellites, 51 single nucleotide polymorphisms and a mtDNA marker to characterize the extent and spatial pattern of encroachment and hybridization between a native, endemic subspecies of red fox (Vulpes vulpes patwin) and an introduced red fox population composed of highly admixed, phylogenetically divergent stock, resulting from a century of domestication. Both nuclear and mtDNA markers indicated that hybridization was primarily restricted to a narrow zone where the two populations came into contact. Although a few introgressed genotypes were detected in the interior of the native range, we found no immigrant foxes or F(1) or F(2) hybrids there, suggesting native foxes excluded introduced individuals. We speculate that the observed interbreeding at the periphery was facilitated by low densities. In total, 98% of mtDNA haplotypes in the native range were native and 96% of the nuclear ancestry was estimated to be native. Although the introduced range had expanded fivefold over the past four decades, native and non-native haplotypes from museum samples collected in and near the native range three decades earlier showed a similar geographic distribution as today, suggesting that the native range and hybrid zone were relatively stable. We hypothesize that the monogamous mating system of red foxes and other wild canids may enhance their resistance to hybridization because of greater fitness consequences associated with mate discrimination.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04943.xDOI Listing
January 2011

Predator-mediated allee effects in multi-prey systems.

Ecology 2010 Jan;91(1):286-92

British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range, RPO #3, P.O. Box 9158, Revelstoke, British Columbia V0E3K0, Canada.

Allee effects can have significant consequences for small populations and understanding the causal mechanisms for such effects is important for guiding conservation actions. One proposed mechanism is through predation, in which a type II functional response leads to increasing predation rates as prey numbers decline. However, models to support this mechanism have incorporated only a single declining prey species in the functional response, which is probably an oversimplification. We reevaluated the potential for predator-mediated Allee effects in a multi-prey system using Holling's disc equation. We also used empirical data on a large herbivore to examine how grouping behavior may influence the potential for predation-mediated Allee effects. Results based on a multi-prey expression of the functional response predict that Allee effects caused by predation on relatively rare secondary prey may not occur because handling time of the abundant prey dominates the functional response such that secondary prey are largely "bycatch". However, a predator-mediated Allee effect can occur if secondary prey live in groups and if, as the population declines, their average group size declines (a relationship seen in several species). In such a case, the rate at which the number of groups declines is less than the rate at which the population declines. Thus the rate at which a predator encounters a group remains relatively stable, but when a predator kills one animal from smaller groups, the predation rate increases. These results highlight the need to evaluate risks associated with potential changes in group size as populations decline.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/09-0286.1DOI Listing
January 2010

Understanding contributions of cohort effects to growth rates of fluctuating populations.

J Anim Ecol 2007 Sep;76(5):946-56

Ecology Group, Institute of Natural Resources, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

1. Understanding contributions of cohort effects to variation in population growth of fluctuating populations is of great interest in evolutionary biology and may be critical in contributing towards wildlife and conservation management. Cohort-specific contributions to population growth can be evaluated using age-specific matrix models and associated elasticity analyses. 2. We developed age-specific matrix models for naturally fluctuating populations of stoats Mustela erminea in New Zealand beech forests. Dynamics and productivity of stoat populations in this environment are related to the 3-5 year masting cycle of beech trees and consequent effects on the abundance of rodents. 3. The finite rate of increase (lambda) of stoat populations in New Zealand beech forests varied substantially, from 1.98 during seedfall years to 0.58 during post-seedfall years. Predicted mean growth rates for stoat populations in continuous 3-, 4- or 5-year cycles are 0.85, 1.00 and 1.13. The variation in population growth was a consequence of high reproductive success of females during seedfall years combined with low survival and fertility of females of the post-seedfall cohort. 4. Variation in population growth was consistently more sensitive to changes in survival rates both when each matrix was evaluated in isolation and when matrices were linked into cycles. Relative contributions to variation in population growth from survival and fertility, especially in 0-1-year-old stoats, also depend on the year of the cycle and the number of transitional years before a new cycle is initiated. 5. Consequently, management strategies aimed at reducing stoat populations that may be best during one phase of the beech seedfall cycle may not be the most efficient during other phases of the cycle. We suggest that management strategies based on elasticities of vital rates need to consider how population growth rates vary so as to meet appropriate economic and conservation targets.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01274.xDOI Listing
September 2007

Changes in landscape composition influence the decline of a threatened woodland caribou population.

J Anim Ecol 2007 May;76(3):568-79

Agroecology, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

1. Large-scale habitat loss is frequently identified with loss of biodiversity, but examples of the direct effect of habitat alterations on changes in vital rates remain rare. Quantifying and understanding the relationship between habitat composition and changes in vital rates, however, is essential for the development of effective conservation strategies. 2. It has been suggested that the decline of woodland caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou populations in North America is precipitated by timber harvesting that creates landscapes of early seral forests. Such habitat changes have altered the predator-prey system resulting in asymmetric predation, where predators are maintained by alternative prey (i.e. apparent competition). However, a direct link between habitat condition and caribou population declines has not been documented. 3. We estimated survival probabilities for the threatened arboreal lichen-feeding ecotype of woodland caribou in British Columbia, Canada, at two different spatial scales. At the broader scale, observed variation in adult female survival rates among 10 distinct populations (range = 0.67-0.93) was best explained by variation in the amount of early seral stands within population ranges and population density. At the finer scale, home ranges of caribou killed by predators had lower proportions of old forest and more mid-aged forest as compared with multi-annual home ranges where caribou were alive. 4. These results are consistent with predictions from the apparent competition hypothesis and quantify direct fitness consequences for caribou following habitat alterations. We conclude that apparent competition can cause rapid population declines and even extinction where changes in species composition occur following large scale habitat change.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01220.xDOI Listing
May 2007

The role of predation in the decline and extirpation of woodland caribou.

Oecologia 2005 Jun 11;144(2):257-67. Epub 2005 May 11.

Agroecology, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.

To select appropriate recovery strategies for endangered populations, we must understand the dynamics of small populations and distinguish between the possible causes that drive such populations to low numbers. It has been suggested that the pattern of population decline may be inversely density-dependent with population growth rates decreasing as populations become very small; however, empirical evidence of such accelerated declines at low densities is rare. Here we analyzed the pattern of decline of a threatened population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in British Columbia, Canada. Using information on the instantaneous rate of increase relative to caribou density in suitable winter foraging habitat, as well as on pregnancy rates and on causes and temporal distribution of mortalities from a sample of 349 radiocollared animals from 15 subpopulations, we tested 3 hypothesized causes of decline: (a) food regulation caused by loss of suitable winter foraging habitat, (b) predation-sensitive foraging caused by loss of suitable winter foraging habitat and (c) predation with caribou being secondary prey. Population sizes of caribou subpopulations ranged from < 5 to > 500 individuals. Our results showed that the rates of increase of these subpopulations varied from -0.1871 to 0.0496 with smaller subpopulations declining faster than larger subpopulations. Rates of increase were positively related to the density of caribou in suitable winter foraging habitat. Pregnancy rates averaged 92.4% +/-2.24 and did not differ among subpopulations. In addition, we found predation to be the primary cause of mortality in 11 of 13 subpopulations with known causes of mortality and predation predominantly occurred during summer. These results are consistent with predictions that caribou subpopulations are declining as a consequence of increased predation. Recovery of these woodland caribou will thus require a multispecies perspective and an appreciation for the influence of inverse density dependence on population trajectories.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-005-0055-yDOI Listing
June 2005