Centre for Environmental Research and Impact Studies @ University of Bucharest

Carnivores trophic web

Project title: Evaluating intraguild trophic relations among terrestrial carnivores in the Romanian Carpathians

Project number: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-0835

Funding body: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI)

Budget: 431.900 RON

Period: 2020-2022

Research team:

Viorel D. Popescu – Principal investigator coordinator

Steluta Manolache – Post-doctoral researcher

Mihai I. Pop – Post-doctoral researcher

Teodora Sin – Researcher

Project context:

Recovery of apex predators is a critical component of reversing the loss of biodiversity. However, the top-down control processes exerted by apex predators may be influenced by bottom-up human-driven processes (e.g., habitat change, poaching, hunting), leading to calls for evaluating recovery actions through the lens of trophic ecology, as well as for considering humans as an integral part of the trophic system. Our proposed project focuses on a complex and intact carnivore guild in the Romanian Carpathians, a region where terrestrial carnivores have persisted and have viable populations despite centuries of human habitation. The work proposed here integrates multiple data sources on carnivore ecology, and addresses the critical need to advance our fundamental understanding of the direction and magnitude of intraguild interactions in human-dominated landscapes.

Aim and objectives:

The research proposed here draws on trophic web theory concepts and seeks to offer a holistic perspective on carnivore guild structure and functioning in human-dominated landscapes. Our project aims to use a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) framework that explicitly models space use and species co-occurrences (occupancy modeling), and integrates diet and social structure of apex predators. When incorporated into the SEM framework, social structure, and diet analyses can provide a mechanistic understanding of (1) the relations between apex predators and the rest of the carnivore community, and (2) the defining elements of the human footprint on the carnivore guild interactions (push-pull dynamics: negative impacts of habitat disturbance compensated by food subsidies such as livestock, crops).

By focusing on Romania’s intact carnivore guild, this research directly informs EU carnivore recovery, supports the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and serves as a benchmark for quantifying the impacts of carnivore recovery in other landscapes with depauperate carnivore guilds largely dominated by mesopredators.

The Romanian Carpathians are one of the few places in Europe that harbor viable, stable populations of terrestrial carnivores: brown bear, Ursus arctos, gray wolf, Canis lupus, Eurasian lynx, Lynx lynx, wildcat, Felis sylvestris, red fox, Vulpes vulpes, as well as several mustelids: badger, Meles meles, European pine marten, Martes martes, beech marten, Martes foina, while lacking basic understanding of species ecology and community structure.

The specific objectives of this project are:

O1) evaluate spatial and interspecific interactions between carnivores using camera trap data;

O2) determine the diet of 2 apex predators: wolf and bear;

O3) evaluate trophic relations between carnivores in the presence of human disturbance by integrating multiple data sources;

O4) develop scientific capacity by engaging young researchers.

Results:

Articles

Iosif R, Popescu VD, Dyck M, Promberger B (in review) Estimating Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) density using camera traps in the Romanian Carpathians. Journal of Mammalogy

Dyck M, Iosif R, Promberger B, Promberger C, Popescu VD (in prep.) Factors influencing large mammal co-occurrence in the Romanian Carpathians

Conference presentations

Popescu VD, Pop IM, Rozylowicz L., Dyck M., Manolache AS, Sin T (2020) Assessing interactions between terrestrial carnivores in the Romanian Carpathians. Re-shaping Territories, Environment and Societies: New Challenges for Geography. November 20 – 21, 2020. Bucharest

Reports:

2020 report (pdf format, in Romanian)