Response to Human Development

We investigate impacts of anthropogenic activities across landscapes on wildlife population dynamics and distributions.

Elk response to timber harvest

Roosevelt elk have important subsistence, sport, economic, and ecological value for residents and non-residents of Alaska. Understanding factors influencing elk distribution and abundance, and how they vary among forest successional stages and management practices, is critical for developing effective forest management strategies which incorporate elk resource requirements. We are examining elk distribution, space use, and resource abundance on Afognak and Raspberry Islands in unharvested and harvested forest stands to identify important resource attributes.

©Shannon Finnegan/GWCC

©Ashley Lutto/GWCC

Comparing protected and unprotected areas

Protected areas are established for diverse conservation strategies, but their effectiveness for conserving species varies widely. We compiled studies that used telemetry to determine cause-specific mortality of North American mammals and compared mortality sources of animals monitored in areas classified as protected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and non-protected areas. Protected areas in North America were associated with reduced poaching mortality of mammals, but the ecological importance of this reduction is likely influenced by population- and species-specific factors.

Human footprint

Over the Earth’s terrestrial surface, wildlife species are adversely affected by an increasing number of anthropogenic impacts to the landscape, collectively termed the “human footprint”. We conducted a synthesis of cause-specific mortality of North American terrestrial mammals, examining how traits such as human footprint of the study area, species lifespan, and diet interacted to influence anthropogenic mortality of mammals. Our results indicate that anthropogenic mortality of mammals increases with increasing human-associated impacts on the landscape, and that longer-lived species are affected more than their shorter-lived counterparts. These shifts in mortality can have substantial implications for understanding wildlife population dynamics and managing wildlife populations across landscapes impacted by anthropogenic activities.

Increasing vehicle mortality

Although vehicle mortality is prevalent across many mammal populations, all species are not equally impacted. We analyzed a database of North American mammal cause-specific mortality to examine factors influencing vehicle mortality. Over the 52-year study period, vehicle mortality increased four-fold for North American mammals, from three percent in the first decade (1960s) to 12 percent by the last decade (2010s). This increased mortality caused by vehicles has the potential to impact overall population dynamics, especially because not all species are impacted in the same manner.