New paper: Incorporating anthropogenic effects into trophic ecology

Note: this post originally appeared on Dale Nimmo’s site. I’ve reproduced it here, including the offensive, not-at-all funny bits. I’ll leave you to figure out which I might mean… so much choice!

Last year I spent six weeks with Joern Fischer and his posse (yep, he has a posse) bird watching, playing carom, and generally Germany-ing it up.

Carom is a game played all over the world, but mainly at Jan Hanspach’s place in Lüneburg, Germany.

Although the beer was alarmingly cheap, I did manage to use some of my time in a productive manner. This week, the fruits of that productivity have ripened, and are now ready to be plucked from the tree, diced finely, and added to a glass of gin and soda water.

In case you need me to spell it out for you, we’ve published a paper.

What’s it about? I’m glad you asked.

Joern and his posse ran a big research project in a very cool part of the world: Transylvania, Romania. This region is undergoing a transition from traditional to more modern, industrialised farming practices and Joern and his team are trying to figure out what that means for the people and biodiversity that call the place home.

Transylvania has a very interesting set of large mammals, including carnivores such as bears, wolves and foxes, and herbivores such as red deer and roe deer. These species occur along with the people of Transylvania and their dogs that help look after livestock. The paper examined how these species co-exist, and what are the main drivers of their occurrence throughout the landscape.

We used camera traps to monitor these species and an important aspect of this work was that we treated humans like any other species: if we recorded them on a camera trap, we could calculate an index of local human activity, much like we often do with other species.

We then modelled the entire ‘ecosystem’, including humans, to show the relative effect of people on other species, compared to the effects of species on each other. We had some expected results, such as the suppressive effects of large carnivores on herbivores. However, these effects pale in comparison to the effects that humans have on species from all trophic levels. Our work highlights the need to think about people as part of the network of species within a region.

The paper is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

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