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Wolves and Tree Logs: Landscape-Scale and Fine-Scale Risk Factors Interactively Influence Tree Regeneration
- van Ginkel, Hermine Annette Lisa, Kuijper, Dries Pieter Jan, Schotanus, Jildou, Smit, Christian
- Ecosystems 2019 v.22 no.1 pp. 202-212
- browsing, carnivores, ecosystems, forests, herbivores, human settlements, landscapes, predation, risk factors, risk perception, trees, trophic levels, ungulates, wolves, wood logs, Poland
- Large carnivores can reduce ungulate numbers by predation and via induced risk effects alter ungulate behavior, indirectly affecting lower trophic levels. However, predator-induced risk effects probably act at different spatial scales, which have often been ignored in trophic cascade studies. We studied how a fine-scale risk factor (distance from tree logs) affects ungulate browsing intensity and how this is modified over a landscape-scale risk gradient (distance from human settlements to wolf core) in the Białowieża forest, Poland. We found that landscape-and fine-scale risk factors strongly interacted in determining the strength and magnitude of carnivore-induced risk effects on lower trophic levels. In low-risk areas, tree logs reduced browsing intensity in small patches (approx. 4–6 m from logs), whereas in high-risk areas browsing intensity was reduced up to at least 16 m from tree logs. Moreover, the magnitude of these effects changed, with the strongest reduction in browsing intensity around tree logs in high-risk areas (up to 37%) and the smallest in low-risk areas (< 20%). Overall, the results of this study indicate that perceived risk factors act at different spatial scales, where impediments (objects blocking view and escape routes) act as a risk factor at a fine scale and carnivore distribution shapes perceived risk at the landscape scale. Moreover, these risk factors strongly interact, thereby determining the functional role of large carnivores in affecting ecosystem processes. These interactive effects should be incorporated in predator-induced trophic cascade studies to understand patterns of tree regeneration in ecosystems where large carnivores and herbivores live together.