Publications by authors named "R P Pech"

30 Publications

Multiple social network influences can generate unexpected environmental outcomes.

Sci Rep 2021 05 7;11(1):9768. Epub 2021 May 7.

University of Canterbury, School of Biological Sciences, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand.

Understanding the function of social networks can make a critical contribution to achieving desirable environmental outcomes. Social-ecological systems are complex, adaptive systems in which environmental decision makers adapt to a changing social and ecological context. However, it remains unclear how multiple social influences interact with environmental feedbacks to generate environmental outcomes. Based on national-scale survey data and a social-ecological agent-based model in the context of voluntary private land conservation, our results suggest that social influences can operate synergistically or antagonistically, thereby enabling behaviors to spread by two or more mechanisms that amplify each other's effects. Furthermore, information through social networks may indirectly affect and respond to isolated individuals through environmental change. The interplay of social influences can, therefore, explain the success or failure of conservation outcomes emerging from collective behavior. To understand the capacity of social influence to generate environmental outcomes, social networks must not be seen as 'closed systems'; rather, the outcomes of environmental interventions depend on feedbacks between the environment and different components of the social system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-89143-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8105375PMC
May 2021

Invasive mammalian predators habituate to and generalize avian prey cues: a mechanism for conserving native prey.

Ecol Appl 2020 12 3;30(8):e02200. Epub 2020 Aug 3.

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, PO Box 282, Alexandra, 9340, New Zealand.

Invasive mammalian predators can cause the decline and extinction of vulnerable native species. Many invasive mammalian predators are dietary generalists that hunt a variety of prey. These predators often rely upon olfaction when foraging, particularly at night. Little is understood about how prey odor cues are used to inform foraging decisions. Prey cues can vary spatially and temporally in their association with prey and can either reveal the location of prey or lead to unsuccessful foraging. Here we examine how two wild-caught invasive mammalian bird predator species (European hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus and ferrets Mustela putorius furo) respond to unrewarded bird odors over successive exposures, first demonstrating that the odors are perceptually different using house mice (Mus musculus) as a biological olfactometer. We aim to test if introduced predators categorize odor cues of similar prey together, a tactic that could increase foraging efficiency. We exposed house mice to the odors using a standard habituation/dishabituation test in a laboratory setting, and wild-caught European hedgehogs and ferrets in an outdoor enclosure using a similar procedure. Mice discriminated among all bird odors presented, showing more interest in chicken odor than quail or gull odor. Both predator species showed a decline in interest toward unrewarded prey odor (i.e., habituation), but only ferrets generalized their response from one unrewarded bird odor to another bird odor. Hedgehog responses to unrewarded bird odors were highly variable between individuals. Taken together, our results reveal interspecific and intraspecific differences in response to prey odors, which we argue are a consequence of different diet breadth, life and evolutionary histories, and the conditions in each experiment. Generalization of prey odors may have enabled some species of invasive predators to efficiently hunt a range of intraguild prey species, for example, ground-nesting shorebirds. Olfactory manipulation of predators may be a useful conservation tool for threatened prey if it reduces the conspicuousness of vulnerable prey.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eap.2200DOI Listing
December 2020

Multiple ecological processes underpin the eruptive dynamics of small mammals: House mice in a semi-arid agricultural environment.

Ecol Evol 2020 Apr 5;10(7):3477-3490. Epub 2020 Mar 5.

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research Lincoln New Zealand.

Mouse plagues are a regular feature of grain-growing regions, particularly in southern and eastern Australia, yet it is not clear what role various ecological processes play in the eruptive dynamics generating these outbreaks.This research was designed to assess the impact of adding food, water, and cover in all combinations on breeding performance, abundance, and survival of mouse populations on a typical cereal growing farm in northwestern Victoria.Supplementary food, water, and cover were applied in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design to 240 m sections of internal fence lines between wheat or barley crops and stubble/pasture fields over an 11-month period to assess the impact on mouse populations.We confirmed that mice were eating the additional food and were accessing the water provided. We did not generate an outbreak of mice, but there were some significant effects from the experimental treatments. Additional food increased population size twofold and improved apparent survival. Both water and cover improved breeding performance. Food and cover increased apparent survival.Our findings confirm that access to food, water, and cover are necessary for outbreaks, but are not sufficient. There remain additional factors that are important in generating mouse plagues, particularly in a climatically variable agricultural environment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6145DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7141066PMC
April 2020

Perception of predation risk by African giant pouched rats (Cricetomys sp. nov) is higher in forest-edge microhabitats.

Behav Processes 2019 Nov 4;168:103953. Epub 2019 Sep 4.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, PB 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand; Nigerian Montane Forest Project, Yelwa village, Taraba State, Nigeria.

How rodents perceive predation risk may alter their seed foraging behaviour and therefore potentially influence the recruitment of tree species. In this study we used two methods to investigate the effect of predation risk on habitat use by the African giant pouched rat (Cricetomys sp. nov) in Ngel Nyaki forest reserve, Nigeria. The first method was 'giving up density' (GUD), an index of perceived risk of predation at an artificial food patch, and the second was the 'spool-and-line' approach, whereby unravelling spools attached to rodent bodies are used to trace their tracks. For our GUD experiment, we chose four major sites in the forest; two representative of core habitat and two at the forest edge. Additionally, three characteristic microsites were used in the GUD experiment: dense understory, open understory and near-burrows. We hypothesised that GUDs would be lower on every succeeding observation day as rats learn to use the food patches, higher GUDs would be observed in the forest edges and open microsites, and rats would show preference for the microhabitats with least exposure to potential predators. In support of our first hypothesis, we found that GUDs were highest on the first experimental nights of every session. We also found that GUDs in the forest edges were higher than GUDs in the forest core. Lower GUDs were observed close to the rat burrows and in dense understory microsites, even though these differences were not statistically significant. Tracking of rat movements using the spool-and-line method overall revealed an even use across microhabitats, with a weak preference for those with logs, dense understory or exposed ground. Overall, our results suggest that vegetation density on a microhabitat scale has little or no effect on the perception of predation risk by African giant pouched rats.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2019.103953DOI Listing
November 2019

Landowners' Perspectives on Coordinated, Landscape-Level Invasive Species Control: The Role of Social and Ecological Context.

Environ Manage 2017 Mar 11;59(3):477-489. Epub 2017 Jan 11.

Landcare Research, PO Box 69040, Lincoln, New Zealand.

To achieve biodiversity gains, landowner engagement in coordinated invasive species control programs across private lands is needed. Understanding landowners' perspectives toward such coordinated control efforts is crucial to facilitating engagement. We conducted in person and mail surveys of 68 landowners in and adjacent to the area of a proposed invasive predator control program in New Zealand. We find that, similar to previous studies, landowners consider the potential socioeconomic and ecological benefits of invasive species control and express a strong desire to enhance native biodiversity. However, we also find that landowners take into account the complexity of the local social and ecological context in which a program will unfold in three ways: they consider (1) the level of contribution by other landowners and urban residents who are benefiting from collective control efforts; (2) the potential for the program to upset the local "ecological balance", leading to increases in other pests; and (3) the probability that the program will be successful given the likelihood of others participating and control tactics being effective. We suggest that managers of coordinated invasive species control efforts may benefit from devoting time and resources toward addressing beliefs about social and ecological context, rather than solely providing financial subsidies and information about control tactics or the impacts of invasive species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0807-yDOI Listing
March 2017
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