Associated Projects

Using agent-based movement modeling to improve the connectivity of jaguar populations (Panthera onca) in Middle America

Ana Patricia Calderón Quiňónez

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

in the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

Ecological Dynamics

Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17

10315 Berlin

 

+ 49 (0) 30 - 51 68 342

calderon [at] izw-berlin.de

 

Supervisor team: Dr. Kramer-Schadt, Prof. Dr. Grimm

Person

I am a Conservation Biologist and my research focuses on the ecology and conservation of felids. My interests lie in the study of movement and habitat use patterns of felids, and on how these patterns are affected by different levels of anthropogenic disturbance. Within the field of conservation biology, I am interested in applying this information for the development of efficient and holistic conservation strategies for wildlife, particularly in the development of biological corridors and other management strategies that promote long term population viability. For my PhD I will be focusing on the development of spatially explicit simulation models that allow us to maintain healthy jaguar populations in the long term.

 

Background

For large carnivores in fragmented landscapes, connectivity is a conservation priority to secure population viability and genetic diversity. This applies also to the jaguar, Panthera onca, in Middle America. In this region, the species has been extirpated from 67% of its former range and some of its local populations show first signs of genetic isolation. Thus, safeguarding and restoring connectivity of jaguar populations is critical for achieving long-term viability in this region. To support management for connectivity, we need to understand how the species’ movement is influenced by individual traits and the structure and configuration of the landscape. While data on movement and habitat features is needed for this endeavor, is not sufficient by itself. Agent-based modeling provides a more integrative framework that allows us to integrate knowledge on the biology of the species, its spatial distribution, its adaptive behavior, demographics, and the landscape features that restrict its movement.

 

Project

The main purpose of my research is the development of a spatially explicit agent-based movement and population viability model to understand jaguar functional connectivity in the complex heterogeneous landscape of Middle America. This model will focus on answering two main questions: how do pathways for jaguar connectivity emerge from the interaction between the species’ movement behaviour, demography and the landscape structure in this region? And, what management and restoration strategies maximize populations’ connectivity and long term viability?

My model will be parameterized and tested with existing data and validated independently using genetic information. Elements of participatory modeling will be implemented during the research process, in which interim versions of the models will be discussed with jaguar experts and stakeholders from the study region, to ensure that the model output can be directly used to support management and planning for jaguar conservation. The final model will provide strategic feedback to the current conservation actions performed within the Jaguar Corridor Initiative in Middle America, improving the ecological realism and functionality of jaguar corridors, as well as the prioritization for protection and restoration of the critical linkages within the corridor that will most likely secure both jaguar movement and population viability.

Arthropods as mobile linker for fungal spore dispersal - linking species behaviour and movement patterns with disease spread mechanisms

Nadja Heitmann

Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)

Landscape Functioning

Eberswalder Str. 84

15374 Müncheberg

 

+49 (0) 33432 - 82113

nadja.heitmann [at] zalf.de

 

Supervisor team: Dr. Müller, Prof. Dr. Rillig, Dr. Glemnitz

Person

I am interested in interdisciplinary research connecting agroecology, animal behavior and biodiversity studies. My current interest focuses on the behavior and movement of arthropods and how they interact with their environment. Although the current insect crisis is well-known, little is understood about how insect behaviour is affected by anthropogenic changes such as agricultural habitat homogenization and it´s feedback mechanisms.

 

Background

Arthropods can act as a mobile link, transporting microorganisms, like fungal spores, attached to their body (ecto-zoochory) or inside their guts (endo-zoochory) and connecting different populations or habitats1-4. This makes an understanding of the role of arthropods in our agricultural landscape even more important, because it could not only help to support farmland arthropods and species associated with them, but could also help to control crop diseases like Fusarium Head blight (FHB) that is caused by a phytopathogenic fungi.

Arthropods are known to move between semi -natural and agricultural habitats and provide numerous functional links this way, e.g. like pest control5. On the one hand many of them are ground- dwelling, like the ground beetles, and so they live close to dead plant material, a known source of phytopathogenic fungi. On the other hand they can travel short distances or even longer by flying and therefore act as a potential dispersal mechanism for fungal spores. On agricultural fields, by fungi infected host plants are likely to interact with ground beetles that may substantially affect plant diseases by influencing fungi spread. Numerous ground beetles are potential vectors of FHB disease pathogens, their effectiveness might vary between species and taxa depending on their traits, like diet, morphology and habitat. There is a need for an integrated approach, connecting ground beetle movement behavior and mechanisms for arthropod-mediated crop disease.

 

Project

For my project I will work with ground beetle species, which differ in their preferred habitat, morphology and diet. Based on that, I investigate their potential as a vector for FHB causing fungal spores and therefore as a mobile link between semi-natural habitats and agricultural fields. The PhD project builds upon extensive previous work on carabid species occurrence and habitat use as well as on fungal disease occurrence and spatial spread, which until now have been analyzed separately from each other.

 

The key objectives of the PhD Project are to

 

(i) identify and quantify carabid movement pattern between agricultural fields and neighboring semi -natural habitats (Kettle- holes) by trapping

 

(ii) analyzing fungal species community associated with the carabids due to ecto- or endozoochory (Spores attached to body parts and spores that survived the digestive system of the beetle)

 

(iii) and identifying relevant fungal and beetle traits, especially morphology, which promote an insect- mediated dispersal

 

1. Moyo P, Allsopp E, Roets F, Mostert L, Halleen F. Arthropods Vector Grapevine Trunk Disease Pathogens. Phytopathology. 2014;104(10):1063-1069. doi:10.1094/PHYTO-11-13-0303-R

2. Drakulic J, Bruce TJA, Ray R V. Direct and host-mediated interactions between Fusarium pathogens and herbivorous arthropods in cereals. Plant Pathol. 2017;66(1):3-13. doi:10.1111/ppa.12546

3. Theron-De Bruin N, Dreyer LL, Ueckermann EA, Wingfield MJ, Roets F. Birds Mediate a Fungus-Mite Mutualism. Microb Ecol. 2018;75(4):863-874. doi:10.1007/s00248-017-1093-9

4. Kluth S, Kruess A, Tscharntke T. Insects as vectors of plant pathogens: Mutualistic and antagonistic interactions. Oecologia. 2002;133(2):193-199. doi:10.1007/s00442-002-1016-3

5. Alignier A, Raymond L, Deconchat M, et al. The effect of semi-natural habitats on aphids and their natural enemies across spatial and temporal scales. Biol Control. 2014;77:76-82. doi:10.1016/j.biocontrol.2014.06.006

Impacts of wildlife-based land use options on feedbacks between movement ecology of major endemic large herbivores, biomass production, landscape diversity and related ecosystem services

Robert Hering

University of Potsdam
Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation
Am Mühlenberg 3
14476 Potsdam

 

Robert.Hering [at] uni-potsdam.de

 

Supervisor team: PD Dr. Blaum, Prof. Dr. Kramer-Schadt

Background

Changing climatic conditions and increasing land use pressure threaten ecosystem functioning and services in Namibian savannas by altering key drivers and feedbacks at the interface of biosphere and geosphere. Similar to many other semi-arid to mesic savannas worldwide, traditional land use management based on domestic livestock has reached its limits in Namibia and new land use options are urgently needed.
One management option supported by national policies is a shift towards the increased use of native wildlife in place of domestic livestock. Such wildlife-based strategies are predicated on an assumption that indigenous herbivores have higher adaptive capacities to unfavourable conditions as compared to livestock.
Despite the strong support by policy makers and the rapidly increasing number of land users integrating some form of wildlife-based land use into their management strategies, many examples of degraded wildlife farms already exist.
As part of the BMBF SPACES¹ program, the ORYCS² research project targets a thorough scientific exploration of applied wildlife-based land use options to assess if and under which conditions these options are indeed more sustainable than traditional forms of land use under ongoing pressure of regional and global change.

 

Project

We are investigating the impacts of wildlife-based land use options on feedbacks between movement ecology of major endemic large herbivores, biomass production, landscape diversity and related ecosystem services. Our main objective is to provide baseline data and explore the impact of wildlife-based land-use management on vegetation properties, structural diversity, biodiversity and productivity including the link between wildlife-vegetation feedbacks and human wildlife conflicts.

 

We will track different large herbivore species such as Springbok, Kudu and Oryx antilopes. In a first step this tracking data will be used to construct movement networks. In a second step accelerometer data will be used to analyze the specific behavior of the animals and by adding this information to the movement networks we will be able to construct behavioral networks. This allows us to identify which animals do what, when, where and why. Based on the networks we then will compare the biodiversity between hotspots of animal activity and comparable but undisturbed sites in order to quantify the influence of herbivores on the biodiversity and ecosystem services. Biodiversity will be quantified with so called rapid biodiversity assessments with which the diversity of arthropods, small mammals and plants will be captured efficiently.

 

For additional information please visit orycs.org.

Spatial and temporal variation and their effects on the stability of large food webs

Markus Stark

University of Potsdam

Ecology and Ecosystem Modelling

Maulbeerallee 2

14469 Potsdam

 

+49 (0) 331 977 1955

mstark@uni-potsdam.de

 

Supervisor team: Dr. Guill, PD Dr. Weithoff, Prof. Dr. Gaedke

Person

I am a theoretical ecologist by training with a focus on aquatic ecosystems. During my studies I become excited about how stable a food web such as in Lake Konstanz is although we have seasonal succession and lots of fluctuation of species. The history of the lake however also shows how large the human impact is when we think of the increase of nutrient level which completely change the environmental conditions for the species. Thus I was drawn into the field of theoretical ecology and I am particular interested in how environmental properties and changes can impact local and regional diversity. I consider here spatially explicit food web models as a useful tool to predict changes and analyse meta-communities affected by environmental changes. 

 

Background

Finding necessary determinants of stability of food webs, expressed in complex networks of predator-prey relations in ecosystems, is a pressing subject of contemporary research, considering the importance for maintaining ecosystem services and biodiversity in a changing world. There are multiple factors affecting local stability of a food web such as interaction strength, adaptive species behavior or body size ratio. In order to assess biodiversity in a changing environment however we have to consider not only a single food web but a meta-food web where multiple food webs are connected with each other. Thus we have to account for dispersal of individuals between habitats and the distribution of populations in the landscape. Studies with a complex spatial setting are however usually limited to simplistic trophic modules comprising a few species whereas studies with a complex trophic network are often limited to a small dispersal network. Our approach combines a complex food web incorporating explicit population dynamics with a complex landscape setup. Similar to spatial heterogeneity, temporal variability of environmental conditions has been suggested to be a driver for biodiversity patterns. Perturbations such as long-term trends in global change or habitat fragmentation pose a severe threat to diversity but are rarely studied in the context of meta-populations or even meta-ecosystems. 

 

 

Project

The project is part of the research unit “Networks on Networks”, examining the interplay of structure and dynamics in spatial ecological networks. The focus of my work is to understand how and what impact a spatial and temporal variable landscape has on the stability of a meta food web. Spatial variability refers here to a variable connectance between habitat patches ranging from very isolated to entirely connected. Temporal variability refers to seasonal occurring links and habitat patches which are temporally present and absence in the landscape.

 

The implementation is done through a dynamic and spatially explicit food web model which integrates complex food web dynamics at the local scale and species-specific dispersal dynamics at the landscape scale. This allows us to study the interplay of local and spatial processes in meta-communities. 

Sustainable management of Namibian semi-arid savannas with wildlife – Simulating wildlife dynamics and management under global change using a novel animal functional type approach

Christoph Lobas
University of Potsdam
Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation
Am Mühlenberg 3
14476 Potsdam

 

lobas [at] uni-potsdam.de

 

Supervisor team: Prof. Dr. Jeltsch, PD Dr. Blaum, Prof. Dr. Grimm

Person

I am an ecologist with a special interest in conservation and dryland ecology. During my studies I was trained in different biological disciplines covering evolutionary science, genetics, theoretical ecology and ecological modelling.
In my PhD project I will tackle an application-oriented research approach that focusses on risks and chances of alternative land use options in semi-arid savannas.

 

Background

Changing climatic conditions and increasing land use pressure threaten ecosystem functioning and services in Namibian savannas by altering key drivers and feedbacks at the interface of biosphere and geosphere. Similar to many other semi-arid to mesic savannas worldwide, traditional land use management based on domestic livestock has reached its limits in Namibia and new land use options are urgently needed.
One management option supported by national policies is a shift towards the increased use of native wildlife in place of domestic livestock. Such wildlife-based strategies are predicated on an assumption that indigenous herbivores have higher adaptive capacities to unfavourable conditions as compared to livestock.
Despite the strong support by policy makers and the rapidly increasing number of land users integrating some form of wildlife-based land use into their management strategies, many examples of degraded wildlife farms already exist.
As part of the BMBF SPACES¹ program, the ORYCS² research project targets a thorough scientific exploration of applied wildlife-based land use options to assess if and under which conditions these options are indeed more sustainable than traditional forms of land use under ongoing pressure of regional and global change.

 

Project

The major goal of my PhD project is to develop a modelling framework that aims at impacts on ecosystems in semi-arid Namibian savannas through wildlife-based management strategies. The spatially explicit agent-based model will follow an animal functional type approach in which savanna-typical ungulates (e.g. springbok, eland antelope, greater kudu, South African oryx, red hartebeest, Burchell’s zebra, blue wildebeest) are classified according to multiple species-specific traits. These traits cover behavioural properties such as spatio-temporal patterns of foraging, movement and drought response as well as other aspects such as body size, water dependence and metabolism. Processes in the model scale up from individual behaviour to population dynamics and will be linked to an ecohydrological vegetation model developed within another work package of the ORYCS² project. The model will be used to evaluate different scenarios of land use, herd management and climate in regard to sustainability of ecosystem services as well as economic feasibility. Data provided by other ORYCS² work packages and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism will be used to parameterize and validate the model.

 

¹SPACES – Science Partnerships for the Assessment of Complex Earth System Processes
²ORYCS – Options for sustainable land use adaptations in savanna systems: Chances and risks of emerging wildlife-based management strategies under regional and global change

 

For additional information please visit orycs.org.

Effect of variation in demographic rates on population and community dynamics

Guillaume Chero

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

in the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

Ecological Dynamics

Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17

10315 Berlin

 

+49 (0) 30 5168 253

chero [at] izw-berlin.de

 

Supervisor team: Dr. Radchuk, Prof. Dr. Kramer-Schadt

Project

We live in the era of Anthropocene where multiple environmental factors are affecting population dynamics, in turn leading to modified community dynamics and issuing changes in ecosystems functioning. Large changes in Earth’s climate are already apparent and expected to continue into the next century. There is some evidence that plants and animals respond to climate change. Species can respond by changing their traits which affect demographic rates (survival and/or reproduction) and finally population dynamics.  

In most cases, researchers investigating effects of climate on population and community dynamics focus on the changes in the mean climatic value. However, it is known that along with changes in mean climate, variation is also changing. Simultaneously with an increase in the mean of the climatic variable (e.g. temperature), its standard deviation is also increasing among-years.

Importantly, most of natural populations are sensitive to environmental variation. Indeed, climatic fluctuations can cause temporal variation in demographic rates (e.g. survival and reproduction), and variation in population dynamics. Although effects of climatic variation are appreciated, studying them is difficult. To understand the effect of solely climatic variation on population and community dynamics, it is required to subject the same population to environments characterized by the same mean and different variation of climatic variables. But in most cases, populations in natural conditions are affected by multiple factors, and it is therefore very difficult to observe populations under exactly the same conditions except for different levels of climatic variation. 

In order to tackle this issue, I am going to study the effect of climatic variation by using simulations. Theoretical modelling allows studying different components of the population dynamics such as temporal stability, population growth rate, and different components of the population dynamics.

BioMove

Research Training Group

DFG-GRK 2118/1

Speaker:

Prof. Dr. Florian Jeltsch

jeltsch [at] uni-potsdam.de

 

Deputy Speaker:

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Niels Blaum blaum [at] uni-potsdam.de

 

Coordination:

Merlin Schäfer
merlin.schaefer [at] uni-potsdam.de

Contact

biomove-rtg [at] uni-potsdam.de

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Florian Jeltsch