Lynx habitat selection is heavily influenced by human disturbance •

In a recent study, experts found that human presence is a major contributing factor in lynx habitat selection. The researchers noted that large predators need more space, which makes them particularly susceptible to human disturbance.

Led by Dr. Marco Heurich and Joseph Premier, conservation biologists at University of Friborgthe team studied the process of habitat selection in the Eurasian lynx.

“Habitat selection is a multi-scale process driven by trade-offs between benefits, such as resource abundance, and harms, such as risk avoidance. The latter includes human disturbance, to which large carnivores, with their large spatial needs, are particularly susceptible,” the study authors explain.

“We investigated the ecological processes underlying the multiscale habitat selection of a large carnivore, namely the Eurasian lynx, in European landscapes characterized by different levels of human modification.”

The researchers analyzed data from 125 lynx from nine regions in Europe. The team looked at available locations for lynx and compared them to sites that were actually used by feral cats.

Experts used a machine learning approach called random forest to examine lynx habitat selection at two scales: the landscape scale and the home range scale. The landscape scale shows how animals adopt their home range in the larger landscape, and the home range scale shows how lynx select habitats across their range.

The study showed that at the landscape scale, lynx avoid roads and human settlements. At the home range scale, cats appeared to prioritize prey availability and hiding places.

The greatest differences in lynx habitat selection were apparent at the landscape level, where it became clear that lynx sought out areas that offered protection from human disturbance.

According to the experts, their research will provide important information for lynx conservation in human-dominated landscapes. “With this study, we can for the first time generalize the habitat selection behavior of a large carnivore species on a continental scale,” explained Dr Heurich.

The study is published in the journal Biological preservation

By Chrissy Sexon, Personal editor

Martin E. Berry