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Landscape of relaxation: On the effect of humans on fallow deer spatiotemporal behaviour and distribution

Luijckx, Frank (2019) Landscape of relaxation: On the effect of humans on fallow deer spatiotemporal behaviour and distribution. Research Project 1, Ecology and Evolution.


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Apex predators are theorised to be able to shape ecosystems via changing the distribution and behaviour of their prey, this is called the ecology of fear. This change can lead to a cascading effect, impacting the whole ecosystem. In human dominated areas, humans have often taken over the role of apex predators and are theorised to play a similar role in the ecosystem. Recently, whether cascading effects often follow from a change in the ecology of fear has come under discussion, with studies showing that this not always takes place. One majoir critique is that prey species can compensate for predator activity by varying their distribution and behaviour temporally and spatially, allowing little overall effect. In this study, we evaluated the effect of five different factors and their interactions on fallow deer distribution and vigilant behaviour in the human dominated areas of Veluwezoom and Deelerwoud in the Netherlands. The factors we evaluate are path distance (20m, 100m), zonation (hunting and recreation, only recreation, no hunting and recreation), habitat (forest, heather), time of day (day, night) and season (hunting, non-hunting). We expected the perceived risk to be higher close to the path, in zones with hunting and recreation, on the heather, during the day and in the hunting season. In places and during times with are perceived as highly risky, we expected fallow deer presence to be low and vigilance to be high. We installed cameras on 20m and 100m from tracks, equally divided between the zones and habitats. On the videos derived from the cameras, we scored the total time present and ratio of vigilant behaviour of fallow deer. We found a higher presence in the refuge zone when compared to the hunting zone and a higher presence outside the hunting season compared to during the hunting season when analysing these factors individually without interactions. There was no single factor effect on vigilance. The full models revealed a large amount of interactions however for both measurements. These interactions showed that deer rather avoid perceived to be risky areas in perceived to be risky periods and largely compensate in periods they consider less risky. Instead of adapting their vigilance, fallow deer select places where they perceive low risk, creating a landscape of relaxation rather than fear. Overall, we conclude that micro-compensation negates strong overall effects but leaves windows of opportunity for cascading effects to still take place.

Item Type: Thesis (Research Project 1)
Supervisor nameSupervisor E mail
Degree programme: Ecology and Evolution
Thesis type: Research Project 1
Language: English
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2019
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2019 09:24

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