In this latest article I talk about the role of humans in food-webs and how our everyday actions can affect wildlife at home and around the globe. We are not separate from nature, so I discuss how we can help improve our conservation efforts and understanding of ecological processes by including ourselves as part of the food-web.
I’ve recently given some talks at the 2016 North Wales Mammal Symposium and the 2016 WEEN (Welsh Ecology & Evolution Network) conference. Both have been incredibly enjoyable and informative experiences. Sharing ideas, networking and hearing about other scientific work can not only be incredibly helpful but also very inspiring to help keep us motivated to do what we do. Public events let people hear about what we do, help to spread positive messages, share knowledge but also hopefully inspires positive action on everyone’s behalf as well. For those interested in my abstract from the 2016 WEEN conference, I have attached it below…
Investigating intraguild suppression among Croatia’s carnivores.
Peter, M. Haswell 1, Jones, K. A. 1, Kusak, J. 2 and Hayward, M. W.1
1Bangor University, 2Zagreb University.
Interactions between large carnivores and other species may be responsible for impacts that are disproportionately large relative to their density. The phenomenon known as mesopredator release is the resultant increase of mesopredator populations after a decline in larger predators. Intraguild predation, competitive killing and interference competition are common where niche and body mass between predators overlap. Interference interactions from larger carnivores pose risk to smaller mesopredators and have the ability to affect population demography in a manner that is not always density dependent. Apex predators may not always suppress spatio-temporal patterns, behaviour and densities of mesopredators. In some contexts however, suppression by apex predators can result in landscape scale distribution patterns between predators. Suppressive interactions between carnivores combined with bottom-up effects of environmental productivity can ultimately drive prey species abundance and the resultant ecosystem dynamics.
The mesopredator release hypothesis and the idea of larger predators suppressing smaller predators has received relatively little empirical study, particularly in Europe. Given the vulnerability of large carnivores to anthropogenic disturbance, a growing human population and intensifying resource consumption, it becomes increasingly important to understand ecological processes so that land can be managed appropriately. We present preliminary findings showing that in an area with minimal human interference (Plitvička Jezera national park), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) adjusted their foraging behaviour in response to a risk cue (wolf urine) suggesting presence of the gray wolf (Canis lupus). Additional investigations being undertaken to understand behavioural interactions between Croatia’s carnivore guild as well as the potential for anthropogenic interference will also be discussed.
As I prepare my departure for another summer of field work in Croatia I have realised how fast the year has flown by since I was last in the beautiful Plitvička jezera national park. I had a successful summer collecting lots of data from my foraging experiments examining how simulated presence of wolves affects the behaviour of smaller mesopredators (red foxes). Camera trapping continues along nicely as do our radio-telemetry efforts. We now have a lynx inside the park wearing a tracking collar and another in Gorski kotar. With the help of my little field assistant dog Alfred we also managed to track down some key wildlife spots and collect lots of scat samples for dietary analysis. Between my teaching commitments, a PGCERThe and my PhD i’ve been pretty busy but I thought it about time I managed to get some pictures up. Hopefully I won’t be so long in adding this years pictures. Enjoy!
Relaxing a little after a hard days work with the Professor and Giole who was conducting his master thesis looking into wolf den sites and wind turbines.
The honey bee’s kept inside the park are often protected from the bears by simple electric fences.
When examining how foxes respond to olfactory cues its important not to contaminate the area with my own scent. Hence the borderline hazmat get up i’m wearing.
We have to use a bit of a nasty smelling concoction to help the foxes find the the foraging experiments.
In the car with Professor Kusak, Mark a PhD student from America and Ivitsa who works for the national park
This little wolf cub was given a sedative while we processed her information
While she was unfortunately to small to wear a tracking collar, we still collected useful morphological and genetic data.
The DNA sample taken from this blood will enable us to follow where this wolf migrates should we find her DNA from a scat sample in the future. The DNA can also be used to find out how she is related to other wolves we have monitored as well as other applications such as understanding evolutionary histories.
Little Betty returns to her pack safe and sound.
We named the little wolf pup Betty after my girlfriend who happened to have her 30th birthday on the day we processed this wolf.
Hrvatski ofchar / Croatian shepherd dog
A visit from Mike (UKWCT) and my intern Menno to help with the project
Interestingly Jackals have now been confirmed as present on the borders of the park. It will be interesting to see how this change in the predator community affects things.
The park is not forested so you get interesting formations like this when tree’s grow up around other fallen dead wood.
There are a lot of pollinators and rare flowers supported by the parks grasslands.
While this looks like just any old rock its actually a lynx marking spot. They don’t tend to leave scats on the road like canids but my detection dog alf took great interest in this and I then found lynx hairs rubbed off on it. A useful find when it comes to positioning cameras for lynx populations estimates.
You don’t often see the bears in the park but they are around.
Signs of bears or badgers digging up wasp nests for a tasty snack.
Notice the white ruff that some of the bears in the park have
Behaviours like levels of vigilance under different scent/olfactory treatments at the foraging experiments help us to understand how large carnivores impact and suppress smaller carnivores.
How much food the foxes take from different experimental conditions also gives us an idea of how their foraging and risk perception is affected
The beach martens have paid the odd visit to the foraging experiments too.
The Croatian currency is called Kuna which is the word for marten. These animals were so abundant that their pelts were used as an early currency. They still appear plentiful in the croatian wilderness today and I often see them around the park.
These lakes are to the south of Gorski kotar and incredibly beautiful
I do love the taste of these zingy wild strawberries
Fallen tree’s often block the relatively unused roads but some quick axe work later and i’m back on my way
Lots of the sheep farmers live alongside the parks predators without much incident. Tradtional husbandry such as guarding dogs and night time corals seem to do the trick.
Standing as well as fallen dead wood is an important part of any woodland ecosystem but something you rarely see in the modern era.
One local bee farmer was kind enough to gift me this huge slab of honeycomb straight from the hive after I had shared some water with him. I find people in Croatia to be very kind and generous.
Marten marking spot. These little guys seem to have a case of small man syndrome by eleveating their scats to increase the communication potential.
Unfortunately one of our collared wolves was spending time in a military zone which made following her a little tricky for me. Thankfully the Professor has organised an agreement and gained permissions from the military to work inside the area.
Wolf scat complete with ungulate hoof
Quie often tree’s get hit by lighting and explode, less fun when it happens quite close to where you are working.
A highlight of the summer was radio-tracking the wolf andjelko with my intern menno. We got within 200m of him and downloaded the data from the tracking collar without disturbing him in the process.
A great picture of alf taken by Mark during his stay with us.
Alf finds a scat sample
Comparing field tools
Daily checks to record how much food was taken from the foraging experiment
I was chuffed to bag the first lynx picture of the summer
There is a fair amount of hiking that goes on inside the park. Unfortunately areas which are meant to be closed off in order to help the wildlife are often used when they shouldn’t be. If you see roads with a gate blocking car access then they are closed for a reason. Without quieter areas large carnivores won’t use the park.
This red deer stag seemed to have a jolly good scratch at the waterhole
You can see how the wild boar piglets really blend in
wildcat on the prowl
These wolf pups seemed to love playing in the dust. What a lovely play bow.
This is betty and her pack happily playing
I am very pleased to announce the pre-release (still to be copy-edited) of Haswell et al., (2016) Large carnivore impacts are context dependent. This review forms the first chapter of my PhD and will be going in alongside papers by some of the great scientists in my field for a special large carnivore issue of the food webs journal. Full text of the pre-release can be found here:
Haswell et al_2016_context dependent apex pred impacts_review
In order to celebrate the UK Wolf Conservation Trusts 20th anniversary I partook in an interview regarding my career to date and my long standing collaboration with the trust.
My latest article discusses how larger predators interact with smaller Mesopredators, potentially providing ecosystem services through top down trophic cascades.
THE COALBOURN CHARITABLE TRUST have generously awarded me a grant to assist with the development and undertaking of foraging experiments to investigate how inter-specific interactions between both wolves and mesopredators, as well as wolves and prey species are affected by context. This generous donation has made the expansion of the project possible and we now have some exciting investigation directions and field experiments planned for the summer. 🙂
The spring issue of wolf print is now out and can be found by clicking the image below. This great little magazine contains an update on our progress in Croatia and the findings that were presented at the international wolf symposium. Enjoy!
So I have some pretty exciting news that I thought it time to share.
I recently began working as a graduate teaching assistant at Bangor University (UK) where I am now also conducting my PhD research. As you can imagine I am incredibly pleased and excited about the appointment. I will be expanding my work in Croatia and will now be able to give the research the time it deserves. This is great news for the research which will now have a great deal more support. The core focus of the research has remained the same and I will have the opportunity to widen the study, collecting more data and asking more questions. I will also be enjoying my involvement teaching students in the school of Biological Science.
Here’s an idea of what I will be looking at over the coming years….
“Is the impact of apex predator’s context dependent? Examining landscapes of fear and interspecific interactions with the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) in human dominated landscapes”
Large carnivore decline and trophic downgrading is a common occurrence and something of great concern worldwide 1. The impacts of world-wide predator decline and the relative importance of direct and indirect species interactions have been highlighted as fundamental ecological questions 2. Caution has been expressed in seeing wolves as ecological saviours because ecosystem services may not always apply or may be inhibited by anthropogenic activity 3. It is important to understand how the impacts of apex predators are shaped by this variable context and if this context can be manipulated to achieve management goals.
A key question is, whether the wolf’s impact on the use of space and time by other species is consistent and constant regardless of context. This study aims to improve understanding of spatio-temporal partitioning between wolves, ungulates (prey), mesopredators (kleptoparasites) and humans (competitors/predators). Interspecific interactions with the grey wolf will be examined in three geographic regions of Croatia (high, moderate and low human disturbance). We will use GPS technology and motion activated cameras alongside traditional field studies to gain insight into how behaviour and interspecific interactions are affected by context. Knowledge gained will inform management decisions and conservation efforts.
1 Estes, J. et al. Trophic downgrading of planet earth. Science 333, 301-306, doi:10.1126/science.1205106 (2011).
2 Sutherland, W. J. et al. Identification of 100 fundamental ecological questions. J Ecol 101, 58-67, doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12025 (2013).
3 Mech, L. Is science in danger of sanctifying the wolf? Biol Conserv 150, 143–149, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.03.003 (2012).
Happy wolf awareness week everyone.
Last week saw the international wolf symposium where professor Kusak presented a preliminary report on our findings in Croatia. The abstract can be viewed on page 47 of the 2013_International Wolf_Symposium_programme
For those on a quest for wolf knowledge and discussions with friends and colleagues this week, here’s a list of links to get you started.
The UK Wolf Conservation Trust
A great infographic blog about american wolf recovery by Defenders of Wildlife
A short wolf info page by national Geographic
For those of you with google translate the life project page for the Croatian wolf project.
The IUCN canids specialist publications page
And let’s not forget our domestic sub-species of wolves, the dog, here’s a great range of information leaflets on dog care by the blue cross.
And don’t forget the publications section of the blog for a few articles from me 🙂
I hope everyone has a great week!