Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Tradeoffs between resources and risks shape the responses of a large carnivore to human disturbance

Mills, Kirby L.; Belant, Jerrold L.; Beukes, Maya; Droege, Egil; Everatt, Kristoffer T.; Fyumagwa, Robert; Green, David S.; Hayward, Matt W.; Holekamp, Kay E.; Radloff, F. G. T.; Spong, Goeran; Suraci, Justin P.; van der Weyde, Leanne K.; Wilmers, Christopher C.; Carter, Neil H.; Sanders, Nathan J.

Abstract

Wide-ranging carnivores experience tradeoffs between dynamic resource availabilities and heterogeneous risks from humans, with consequences for their ecological function and conservation outcomes. Yet, research investigating these tradeoffs across large carnivore distributions is rare. We assessed how resource availability and anthropogenic risks influence the strength of lion (Panthera leo) responses to disturbance using data from 31 sites across lions' contemporary range. Lions avoided human disturbance at over two-thirds of sites, though their responses varied depending on site-level characteristics. Lions were more likely to exploit human-dominated landscapes where resources were limited, indicating that resource limitation can outweigh anthropogenic risks and might exacerbate human-carnivore conflict. Lions also avoided human impacts by increasing their nocturnal activity more often at sites with higher production of cattle. The combined effects of expanding human impacts and environmental change threaten to simultaneously downgrade the ecological function of carnivores and intensify human-carnivore conflicts, escalating extinction risks for many species.A meta-analysis performed with data from 31 study sites indicate that lions reduce their space use and increase nocturnal activity where human disturbance is high, but less so when resources are scarce.

Published in

Communications biology
2023, Volume: 6, number: 1, article number: 986
Publisher: NATURE PORTFOLIO