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: 431900 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.



Neagu A.C., Manolache S., Rozylowicz L. (under review) Drums of war are beating louder. Media coverage of brown bears in Romania. Nature Conservation

Iosif R., Popescu V.D., Ungureanu L., Serban C., Dyck M.A., Promberger-Furpass B. (2022). Eurasian lynx density and habitat use in one of Europe’s strongholds, the Romanian Carpathians. Journal of Mammalogy, gyab157

Yinqiu J., Baker C.C.M., Popescu V.D., Wang J., Wu C., Wang Z., Li Y., Wang L., Hua C., Yang C., Xu C.C.Y., Wen Q., Pierce N.E., Yu D.W. (2022) Measuring protected-area effectiveness using vertebrate distributions from leech iDNA. Nature Communications 13(1): 1555

Dyck M., Iosif R., Promberger B., Promberger C., Popescu V.D. (2022) Dracula’s ménagerie: A multispecies occupancy analysis of lynx, wildcat, and wolf in the Romanian Carpathians. Ecology and Evolution 12:e8921

Dyck M.A., Wyza E., Popescu V.D. (2022). When carnivores collide: a review of studies exploring the competitive interactions between bobcats Lynx rufus and coyotes Canis latrans. Mammal Review 52, 52-66

Popescu V.D.Pop M.I., Rozylowicz L. (2021) Trophy hunting undermines public trust. Science 372 6546: 1049

Conference presentations

International Bear Conference, 14-23 Septembrie 2021, Kalispell, Montana USA, Livestock depredation by brown bears in the Romanian Carpathians

The 2nd International Conference: Geographical Sciences and Future of Earth, 12 November 2021 Dracula’s menagerie: interactions between wolf, lynx and wildcat in the Romanian Carpathians

Popescu V.D., Pop I.M., Rozylowicz L., Dyck M., Manolache S., 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


2021 report (pdf format, in Romanian)

2020 report (pdf format, in Romanian)