Functional responses, Seasonal variation and thresholds in behavioural responses of moose to road density

Beyer, Hawthorne L., Ung, Ricardo, Murray, Dennis L. and Fortin, Marie-Josee (2013) Functional responses, Seasonal variation and thresholds in behavioural responses of moose to road density. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50 2: 286-294. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12042


Author Beyer, Hawthorne L.
Ung, Ricardo
Murray, Dennis L.
Fortin, Marie-Josee
Title Functional responses, Seasonal variation and thresholds in behavioural responses of moose to road density
Journal name Journal of Applied Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0021-8901
1365-2664
Publication date 2013-04-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/1365-2664.12042
Volume 50
Issue 2
Start page 286
End page 294
Total pages 9
Place of publication Oxford United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Collection year 2014
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Understanding the consequences of environmental change on populations is an essential prerequisite for informed management of ecosystems and landscapes. In lieu of quantifying fitness effects directly, which is often difficult, behavioural functional responses provide insight into how animals balance trade-offs, and into thresholds in responses to environmental change. Here, we explore this principle using the response of moose Alces alces L. to roads and restricted-access tracks as a case study. Because roads are associated with the conversion of conifer to mixed deciduous-conifer forest that provides better foraging opportunities, moose in Ontario favour areas of moderate road density at a landscape scale. At a finer scale, however, moose avoid roads. These opposing effects indicate a cost-benefit trade-off. We quantified behavioural responses of moose to roads using road-crossing rate. An expected distribution of crossing rates was derived from correlated random walk null model simulations. Moose exhibited a seasonally variable, nonlinear functional response in road-crossing rate at the within seasonal range scale. A pronounced response to roads was observed when road density reached approximate thresholds of 0·2 and 0·4 km km-2 in summer and winter respectively. Road-crossing rate was proportional to road density, though crossing rates were higher in summer than winter. Crossing rates were best explained by the interaction between mean movement rate and road density. Seasonal differences in road-crossing rate arise from seasonal differences in movement rate and seasonal range area, but not road density within seasonal ranges. Within the protected park, moose did not appear to respond to tracks. Our analysis implies that for the majority of the landscape outside of protected areas the response of moose to roads is pronounced. Synthesis and applications. Identifying thresholds in nonlinear responses to landscape modification is a key management objective as they represent transition zones where small changes can have disproportionately large effects on wildlife populations. We establish these thresholds for moose and roads, but find no response to tracks, implying that the effects of tracks can be mitigated by restricting access to them. We discuss the implications of this work on the problem of moose-vehicle collisions. Identifying thresholds in nonlinear responses to landscape modification is a key management objective as they represent transition zones where small changes can have disproportionately large effects on wildlife populations. We establish these thresholds for moose and roads, but find no response to tracks, implying that the effects of tracks can be mitigated by restricting access to them. We discuss the implications of this work on the problem of moose-vehicle collisions.
Keyword Canada
Correlated random walk
Movement model
Ontario
Protected areas
Response to roads
Road density
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online: 8 February 2013.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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