Integrating genetic processes in the conservation management of lynx

Motivation:

After decades since their local extinction, large predators have been able to resettle in central Europe. This was possible due to support from the general public and legal protection as well as reintroductions. Despite these developments the return of large predators does not continue without opposition. Historic preconceptions about large predators and the conflicts of interest between stakeholders require maintained effort to protect their survival. The anthropogenic influence on German and Central European landscapes puts populations of large predators under strain, the Eurasian Lynx being a prime example. Habitat fragmentation, poaching and loss of genetic diversity put lynx at risk of local extirpation. Although there is enough habitat for populations to expand the low landscape connectivity between patches mean populations are less able to disperse. The small and poorly connected populations of lynx in central Europe face a higher risk of dying out due to random events. In small populations the probability of genetic diversity being lost is also higher due to genetic drift and inbreeding. This can have negative effects on individual and population health and ultimately survival. The longer small populations remain separated, the higher the risk of genetic side effects.

Project goals::

The goal of the project is therefore to further develop an existing spatially explicit individual based lynx population simulation model so that besides habitat, dispersal and demographic factors, genetic processes can also be considered. Ultimately, the model will be used to answer the following management questions: (1) how will the lynx populations develop in the next 100 years if no action is taken? (2) How many lynx individuals from large populations (for example the Carpathians) are required each year in order to achieve the desired genetic diversity in central Europe? (3) Could improved connectivity between the Central European populations achieve this diversity? (4) Would a dramatic decrease in poaching significantly improve the populations’ genetics?

Methodology

To investigate the potential development of lynx populations’ spatially explicit models can be used. Individual based models (IBMs) cater well to these enquires allowing the analysis of complex systems by considering the influence of various effects and interactions at the individual Level, such as the contributions of demographics, survival and dispersal on the individual. A partner’s existing model does not yet consider genetics, is parameterised with outdated data and is limited in geographic extent. It is therefore desirable to redevelop this model. The first step will be survival and demographic analyses of central European lynx populations with respect to habitat; this will be required to parameterise the subsequent IBM. Secondly the redevelopment and new parameterisation of an IBM to include genetics will take place. Finally the management questions will be confronted. The model should be programmed in such a way to allow the simulation of other similar cat species when parametrised in the appropriate manner.


Finanzierung:

  • Nationalparkverwaltung Bayerischer Wald

Contact person::

Dr. Christian von Hoerman
Scientific employee
Christian.vonHoerman@npv-bw.bayern.de

PD Dr. Marco Heurich
Head of department
Marco.Heurich@npv-bw.bayern.de

Collaborators:

Publications:

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