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Predicting population-level risk effects of predation from the responses of individuals

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Abstract

Fear of predation produces large effects on prey population dynamics through indirect risk effects that can cause even greater impacts than direct predation mortality. As yet, there is no general theoretical framework for predicting when and how these population risk effects will arise in specific prey populations, meaning there is often little consideration given to the key role predator risk effects can play in understanding conservation and wildlife management challenges. Here, we propose population predator risk effects can be predicted through an extension of individual risk trade-off theory and show for the first time that this is the case in a wild vertebrate system. Specifically, we demonstrate that the timing (in specific months of the year), occurrence (at low food availability), cause (reduction in individual energy reserves) and type (starvation mortality) of a population level predator risk effect can be successfully predicted from individual responses using a widely applicable theoretical framework (individual based risk trade-off theory). Our results suggest individually-based risk-trade-off frameworks could allow a wide range of population level predator risk effects to be predicted from existing ecological theory, which would enable risk effects to be more routinely integrated into consideration of population processes and in applied situations such as conservation.
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2006-2015
Number of pages10
JournalEcology
Volume95
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014

    Research areas

  • Bottlenose dolphin; Tursiops truncates, Harbor porpoise; Phocoena phocoena, Indirect effects, Individual-based theory, Lethal porpoise-dolphin interactons, Mass-dependent predation risk, Nonconsumptive effects, Nonlethal predator effects, Sandeel; Ammodytes marinus, Scotland, Starvation-predation risk trade-off

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