Modeling Anthropogenic Disturbance of Wildlife
Anthropogenic disturbance of wildlife refers to a broad range of non-lethal human activities that can impact animal behavior during critical life functions resulting in reduced fitness for those animals. Human disturbance of wildlife can take the form of recreation, resource extraction, noise, and infrastructure development. Animals perceive human presence on the landscape as a predation risk and thus exhibit behaviors such as vigilance, flight, alter their habitat selection, and show signs of stress in response. In this dissertation, we use several different modeling techniques using diverse data types to address the consequences of human disturbance on wildlife species. First, we use an individual-based modeling framework to assess the effectiveness of management strategies on mitigating human recreation disturbance to nesting golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). We found that trail density and level of anthropogenic disturbance both impacted the effectiveness of proposed trail closure strategies. Second, we describe the addition of population-level functionality to an established individual-based modeling framework used to investigate human disturbance on wildlife. Through a case study looking at road traffic impacts on Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis), we show that integrating a population-level component provides new insights into these systems and explicitly connects behavior change to reduced fitness. Third, we use informative priors in Bayesian hierarchical occupancy modeling framework to assess density-dependent habitat selection in three declining bat species of Indiana. Use of informative priors improved model accuracy and precision along with providing insights into the habitat selection choices of Midwestern bats as their populations decline due to white-nose syndrome. Finally, we use survey data and structural equation modeling to assess whether consultant foresters intend to manage private forestlands in accordance with federal guidelines for the endangered Indiana bat. We found that despite a relative lack of knowledge of the guidelines, foresters do not generally believe the guidelines contribute to the conservation of the Indiana bat. However, in foresters that did intend to manage in accordance with the guidelines, we found evidence their management decisions retained or created forest structural elements important for Indiana bats. This allowed us to target extension strategies to improve management on private forest lands for the benefit of endangered bats.
Zollner, Purdue University.
Wildlife Conservation|Wildlife Management|Ecology
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