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Integrating ecological and social approaches for promoting the conservation of carnivores in a human-dominated landscape of southern Chile Open Access


Other title
Darwin's fox
Occupancy modeling
Human-carnivore coexistence
Human-dominated landscape
Temperate Forest
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Moreira, Dario A.
Supervisor and department
Stanley Boutin (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Marcella Kelly (Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech)
Jaime Jimenéz (Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas)
Evelyn Merril (Biological Sciences)
Andrew Derocher (Biological Sciences)
Erin Bayne (Biological Sciences)
Department of Biological Sciences
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Mammalian carnivores inhabiting human-dominated landscapes may face reduced and heterogeneous distributions of feeding resources while being more exposed to humans and introduced carnivores. Therefore, sustainable landscape planning intended to conserve carnivores in human-dominated landscapes requires the use of a multi-dimensional approach that integrates different conceptual and methodological components, such as: 1) habitat and prey selection patterns of carnivores at different spatio-temporal scales; 2) habitat selection models including fine-grain information of habitat structure; and 3) assessment of carnivore-human relationships from a sustainability perspective. Here, I used an occupancy-modeling framework and Resource Selection Functions to evaluate how habitat transformation, human activity and introduced carnivores shaped the spatio-temporal patterns of habitat use and prey selection of seven native carnivores of Temperate Forest. The study was conducted in Nahuelbuta Mountain Range, Chile, a landscape now dominated by exotic commercial plantations. The study was conducted between 2011 and 2014 and the main findings were as follows: i) Habitat use by carnivore species were significantly affected by native forest, road density and the presence of dogs (Canis familiaris). The magnitude of these effects were also influenced by the time of day and spatial scale. The positive effect of native forest on occupancy probability was stronger during the night for the Darwin's fox (Pseudalopex fulvipes) and cougar (Puma concolor), whereas roads reduced the occupancy probability of Darwin´s fox, being this effect stronger during day-time. Dogs reduced the occupancy probability of Darwin's foxes, but this effect was independent of the time of day. Conversely, cougars were negatively affected by dogs only during the day. ii) Vegetation structure, derived from high-resolution LiDAR remote sensing systems, improved the performance of occupancy models for Darwin's fox and kodkod cat (Leopardus guigna), indicating that carnivore habitat use responds to fine-grain habitat heterogeneity rather than coarse habitat type. iii) Carnivore prey selection differed between native forests and pine plantations. This foraging response was also associated with changes in habitat type and the variation in abundance of prey species. iv) While people from rural communities across the Nahuelbuta Mountain Range were willing to conserve some carnivore species, they were unwilling to adopt husbandry practices such as leashing dogs or providing protection to poultry in order to avoid predation of domestic animals by carnivores. Results of this research suggest that carnivore habitat use in this human-dominated landscape is affected by human activity, domestic dogs and fine-grain habitat structure. However, the magnitude of these effects may also vary in both time and space. Moreover, even though overall native prey availability decreases in plantations, some prey can reach similar or even higher abundance in these human-created habitats. In response to these changes, predators may modify their prey selection behavior between native forest and plantations. Thus, landscape planning for carnivore conservation should be based on: 1) sustainable forestry practices promoting the retention of native forest while restoring and improving habitat quality in forest plantations; and 2) sustainable practices by small farmers focused on the responsible management of dogs.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Moreira-Arce, D., Vergara, P.M., Boutin, S. 2015 Diurnal Human Activity and Introduced Species Affect Occurrence of Carnivores in a Human-Dominated Landscape. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0137854. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137854.Moreira-Arce, D, Vergara, P.M., Boutin, S., Simonetti, J.A., Briceño, C., Acosta-Jamett, G. 2015. Native forest replacement by exotic plantations triggers changes in prey selection of mesocarnivores. Biological Conservation, in press. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2015.09.015

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