Human disturbance is the most crucial factor for lynx in habitat selection

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Habitat selection in wildlife is a process that occurs at different scales: Balancing the advantages, such as a high abundance of food, with the disadvantages, such as human disturbance. Large predators, with their large spatial needs, are particularly sensitive to these disturbances. A team led by conservation biologists Prof. Dr. Marco Heurich and Joseph Premier from the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources of the University of Friborg studied this process of habitat selection in the Eurasian lynx. Their results, published by researchers in Biological conservation, provide important information for the conservation of this species in human-dominated landscapes. “With this study, we can generalize the habitat selection behavior of a large carnivore species to a continental scale for the first time,” says Heurich.

Extensive dataset with animals in several European regions

Researchers led by Heurich and Premier used a dataset consisting of tracking data on 125 lynx from nine study areas across Europe. They compared the locations available and actually used by predators at two scales: the landscape scale, which shows how lynx place their home range in the landscape, and the home range scale, which shows how lynx select animals. habitats in their home range. For this comparison, the research team used a new machine learning approach called random forest. This was extended to include a random effect so that variability within and between study areas could be accounted for.

What animals avoid and how they orient themselves

At the landscape scale, the analysis revealed that the lynx avoids roads and human settlements. At the level of their home range, the animals were oriented towards hiding places and the availability of prey. The researchers found only minor differences between female and male lynx in their choice of habitat.

Heurich and Premier found the greatest differences in lynx habitat choice at the landscape level, where there were clear differences between different study areas, for example between the Swiss Alps and the plains of Estonia. . In foraging areas, lynx behaved very similarly across Europe, preferring heterogeneous forest areas and areas that offered protection from human disturbance.

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Material provided by University of Friborg. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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