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15 January 2015
Doctoral thesis (Dissertations and theses)
Managing the carnivore comeback: assessing the adaptive capacity of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to cohabit with humans in shared landscapes
Bouyer, Yaëlle 


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Keywords :
carnivore; habitat selection; Lynx
Abstract :
[en] Conflicts between humans and large carnivores are one of the most visible examples of the challenges that arise when seeking to achieve coexistence between humans and wildlife. With their large spatial requirements and predatory behavior, large carnivores are among the most difficult species to preserve in our modern day landscapes. Although large carnivores are usually considered as the epitomes of wilderness, because of human population growth and habitat fragmentation they are inexorably and increasingly faced with the need to live in human-modified landscapes. As a direct consequence, conflicts over depredation on livestock, competition for game species and sometimes over human injury or death will only increase if clear management measures are not taken. This is particularly true in Europe, where, after many decades of absence, large carnivores are recolonizing areas where millions of people are present and where landscapes have been drastically modified. Two approaches to integrating wildlife into a human-dominated world have been proposed at an international scale. The first solution is called land sparing, in which wildlife lives exclusively in protected or wilderness areas where contact between animals and humans will be reduced to the minimum. The second solution, called land sharing, proposes to integrate human activities and wildlife in the same landscapes in non-protected interface zones in what is often called a coexistence approach. In a context of scarce true wilderness areas and a continuum of human-modified habitats, land sharing (i.e. the coexistence approach) is seen as the only possible approach valid for Europe. While a coexistence approach can be readily implemented with smaller species, it can represent a major challenge for species with large space requirements and with predatory behavior. To help manage these species in a long-term conservation vision and to predict where potential conflicts could arise between humans and carnivores, information on large carnivores and their habitat use in anthropogenic landscapes is a pre-requisite. With the return of Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in Western Europe, the most densely populated areas of the continent_ information on the species tolerance to human land use will help predict where it is likely to occur in anthropogenic landscapes. Data collected in Scandinavia over 15 years were used to assess the use of landscape by lynx. In this study, we explored the effect of anthropogenic and environmental factors on Eurasian lynx habitat use in Scandinavia. The work was developed along two main axes. The first axis aims to explore large scale potential patterns of lynx distribution through transferability of results obtained from habitat modelling to geographically different areas. Transferability of results was tested in two steps. Firstly, transferability success (i.e. predictive ability of the map) was tested at a regional scale using data on roe-deer, the main prey of lynx, to create a map of relative distribution and abundance of prey in southeastern Norway (Chapter 1). Secondly, transferability success was assessed at a larger extent and using data obtained from different sampling method (Chapter 2). A habitat suitability map for Eurasian lynx was produced to be used in management planning in geographically differentiated lynx management zones in Scandinavia. The results indicated that transferability of results from one region to an ecologically different region must be taken with caution. Nevertheless, the habitat suitability maps we constructed on the basis of extrapolation are a valuable asset to help management of the Scandinavian lynx population. The second axis deals with lynx habitat use in relation to anthropogenic and environmental predictors. Lynx tolerance to human presence was first explored by looking at the orientation of home range in the landscape, taking into account proxies of human presence (Chapter 3). Values of these proxies were compared both inside home ranges and within a buffer surrounding the home ranges for several lynx inhabiting an anthropogenic gradient going from near-wilderness to urban periphery. Results showed a high diversity in the extent to which individual lynx are exposed to human influence, indicating that lynx are highly adaptable in terms of living space. Lynx seemed to be able to orientate their home range in order to avoid highest human impacts and select for areas of medium human impacts. Building on these results, finer scale information on lynx habitat use in an anthropogenic landscape were obtained taking into consideration different types of behavior (day-beds, moving and killing) displayed by adult lynx, as well as the effect of cumulative anthropogenic pressures on habitat selection (Chapter 4). Our results showed that lynx select for areas with medium levels of human modification, avoiding both the areas with highest and least modification. Females in general appear to be less tolerant to human modification than males, especially for day-beds. Our study shows that Eurasian lynx can be considered as a species that is adaptable to human- induced changes in landscape even if its motivation to tolerate human presence is clearly linked to the presence and density level of its main prey, the roe deer. Our work shows that, contrary to much of the public and many conservation professionals’ opinions, land sharing with large carnivores in Europe may be possible – even in the immediate proximity to urban centers. However, it is important to bear in mind that these results were obtained from countries with a relatively low human population density; even though some individuals observed lived in the periphery of large cities, the level of habitat fragmentation is less severe than in most of Western Europe. In order to properly assess the capacity of Eurasian lynx to live in highly populated areas, such as the Benelux, more detailed information on lynx distribution from continental European will be needed. However, our results underline the value of combining both correlational and mechanistic studies, and the need for caution in extrapolating data too far from its original context. As large carnivore recovery continues to progress in Europe we may not yet have seen the limits of these species' abilities to adapt.
Disciplines :
Environmental sciences & ecology
Author, co-author :
Bouyer, Yaëlle ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de Biologie, Ecologie et Evolution > Biologie du comportement - Ethologie et psychologie animale
Language :
Title :
Managing the carnivore comeback: assessing the adaptive capacity of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) to cohabit with humans in shared landscapes
Alternative titles :
[fr] Gérer le retour des carnivores: Evaluation de la capacité du lynx boréal (Lynx lynx) à partager des territoires avec les hommes
Defense date :
09 January 2015
Number of pages :
Institution :
ULiège - Université de Liège
Degree :
Docteur en Sciences
Promotor :
Poncin, Pascal ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Station scientifique des Hautes-Fagnes
Beudels, Roseline
Linnell, John
President :
Sérusiaux, Emmanuël ;  Université de Liège - ULiège > Département de Biologie, Ecologie et Evolution > Océanographie biologique
Secretary :
Huynien, Marie-Claude
Jury member :
Gilbert, Marius
Marboutin, Eric
Boitani, Luigi
Devillers, Pierre
Funders :
F.R.S.-FNRS - Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique


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