Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News_folder | Resource pulses and human-wildlife conflicts: Linking satellite indicators and ground data on forest productivity to predict brown bear damages

Resource pulses and human-wildlife conflicts: Linking satellite indicators and ground data on forest productivity to predict brown bear damages

Carlos Bautista, Julian Oeser, Tobias Kuemmerle, Nuria Selva

 

Summary:

Here, we used a combination of remote-sensing and field-measured productivity indicators to demonstrate that in temperate ecosystems brown bears attack more beehives in years of beechnut crop failure. Our study provides empirical evidence on how bottom-up effects of resource pulses, such as masting, shape the interactions between wildlife and humans. Furthermore, we demonstrate that combining weather cues and remote-sensing indicators of vegetation growth and phenology can explain and predict year-to-year variation in beechnut production linked to wildlife damage, which can help to improve conflict management and proactively reduce conflicts.

 

Abstract:

Pulsed resources have prominent effects on community and ecosystem dynamics; however, there is little research on how resource pulses affect human-wildlife interactions. Tree masting is a common type of pulsed resource that represents a crucial food for many species and has important bottom-up effects in food webs. In anthropogenic landscapes, years of food shortage after mast years can have negative outcomes for both people and wildlife, for instance when an increased use of anthropogenic foods by animals exacerbates human-wildlife conflicts. Here, we used novel remote sensing indicators of forest productivity and phenology, together with weather cues and ground measures of mast production, to assess whether years of masting and crop failures lead to changes in human-wildlife conflict occurrence. We used a unique 14-year dataset including the production of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) seeds and brown bear (Ursus arctos) damage in the northeastern Carpathians as our model system. Linking these data in a panel regression framework, we found that temporal fluctuations in damage occurrence were sensitive to the year-to-year variation in beechnut production. Specifically, the number of damages during bear hyperphagia (i.e., September to December, when bears need to accumulate fat reserves prior to hibernation) was significantly higher in years with low beechnut production than in normal or mast years. Furthermore, we provide evidence that beech masting and failure can be predicted through a combination of remote-sensing, weather, and field indicators of forest productivity and phenology. We demonstrate how pulsed resources, such as tree masting, can percolate through food webs to amplify human-wildlife conflict in human-dominated landscapes. Given the recent range expansion of large carnivores and herbivores in many regions, including Europe, predicting years of natural food shortage can provide a pathway to proactive damage prevention, and thus to foster coexistence between wildlife and people.


Link to the manuscript: https://doi.org/10.1002/rse2.302

 

Citation: Bautista, C., Oeser, J., Kuemmerle, T. and Selva, N. (2022), Resource pulses and human–wildlife conflicts: linking satellite indicators and ground data on forest productivity to predict brown bear damages. Remote Sens Ecol Conserv.