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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Ecological Effects of Wolves in Anthropogenic Landscapes: The Potential for Trophic Cascades Is Context-Dependent

Ausilio, Giorgia; Sand, Hakan; Mansson, Johan; Mathisen, Karen Marie; Wikenros, Camilla

Abstract

In recent years, large predators have made a comeback across large parts of Europe. However, little is known about the impact that recolonizing predators may have on ecosystems with high degrees of anthropogenic influence. In Scandinavia, wolves (Canis lupus) now inhabit areas affected by intense forestry practices and their main prey, moose (Alces alces), are exposed to significant human hunting pressure. We used long-term datasets to investigate whether the return of wolves has affected moose distribution (i.e., presence and abundance) as well as browsing damage (i.e., presence and intensity) by moose on Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). We found that the probability of moose presence and abundance increased with time since wolf territory establishment and was higher inside wolf territories than outside. Additionally, the probability of browsing damage was also higher inside wolf territories compared to outside, but wolf occurrence had no effect on browsing damage intensity. We suggest two possible underlying mechanisms behind these results: (1) wolves might select to establish territories in areas with higher moose abundance, increasing their probability of encounters, and/or (2) hunters within wolf territories reduce the number of harvested moose to compensate for wolf predation. This study highlights that the return of large predators to landscapes with strong anthropogenic influence may result in alternative effects than those described in studies on trophic cascades located in protected areas.

Keywords

Canis lupus; Alces alces; Pinus sylvestris; pellet counts; browsing; predation; anthropogenic landscape; trophic cascade

Published in

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
2021, volume: 8, article number: 577963
Publisher: FRONTIERS MEDIA SA

Authors' information

Ausilio, Giorgia
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Mathisen, Karen Marie
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

UKÄ Subject classification

Ecology

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2020.577963

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/110530