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

  • Author / Creator
    Moreira, Dario A.
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2015-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3S756Q9J
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Biological Sciences
  • Specialization
    • Ecology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Stanley Boutin (Biological Sciences)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Andrew Derocher (Biological Sciences)
    • Evelyn Merril (Biological Sciences)
    • Jaime Jimenéz (Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Texas)
    • Erin Bayne (Biological Sciences)
    • Marcella Kelly (Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech)