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Temporal activity shift in arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in response to human disturbance
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6534-3819
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9707-5206
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Number of Authors: 32021 (English)In: Global Ecology and Conservation, ISSN 2351-9894, Vol. 27, article id e01602Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The rapidly growing interest for nature-based recreational activities threaten biodiversity values and increases the disturbance caused to wildlife. Several studies have demonstrated spatial and temporal activity shifts of animals in response to human disturbance. However, most studies investigate effects on how animals use an area of high tourism disturbance, such as a tourist resort or hiking trail, and not the effects of human disturbance at a key site for the animal, such as a denning or breeding site. In this study, we use photos from remote camera monitoring of arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) dens with the aim to investigate the effects of various levels of tourism disturbance on the diurnal activity pattern and vigilance of breeding adult arctic foxes at the den site. We find a temporal shift towards a higher daytime activity at the den in response to high intensity tourism (71 +/- 3.9% in disturbed areas compared with 53 +/- 6.2% in undisturbed areas), which stands in contrast to an increased nocturnality seen in studies of many other species, including another study of arctic foxes. We suggest that the difference could be explained by the higher cost of avoiding a key site for the animal, as in this study, compared with avoiding a more general human disturbance in an area within the distribution range of the animal, as in most other studies. Increased time spent avoiding the perceived threat of humans could compromise other important activities and have potential negative effects on e.g. hunting or provisioning for the juveniles. Human disturbance focused at a key site, such as a denning or breeding site, can thereby be expected to have larger consequences than what is observed in most studies of disturbance effects on wildlife. Based on observations of both tourists and arctic foxes during close encounters in an area of high intensity tourism, we also find that they both respond behaviorally to each other. The potential for positive or negative feedback mechanisms in such relationships between tourists and wildlife highlights the importance of considering both sides of the complex interaction to find a balance between preserving biodiversity and ensuring continued possibilities for recreation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2021. Vol. 27, article id e01602
Keywords [en]
Wildlife tourism, Human-wildlife interactions, Recreation, Human disturbance, Mutual relationship, Arctic fox
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-196291DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01602ISI: 000663457500012OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-196291DiVA, id: diva2:1591175
Available from: 2021-09-06 Created: 2021-09-06 Last updated: 2024-03-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Relationship between wildlife and tourism - interdisciplinary insights from Arctic fox tourism in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Relationship between wildlife and tourism - interdisciplinary insights from Arctic fox tourism in Sweden
2024 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Interactions between wildlife and tourism can be studied from several different perspectives and the effects of such interactions can influence animals both positively and negatively with effects on both individual and population levels. This thesis takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining both natural and social perspectives, when studying the effects of tourism activity on a small population of the endangered arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus). We have studied arctic foxes inhabiting disturbed and undisturbed den sites in Helagsfjällen, which is the southernmost population of arctic foxes in Sweden and a popular area for recreational activities such as hiking, skiing and camping. The overall objective of the thesis has been to contribute to good management of both arctic foxes and tourism within the study area, as well as to contribute with a comprehensive study of simultaneous disturbance effects and fitness consequences of wildlife tourism activities to the scientific field of wildlife-tourism interactions. The first two papers focus on different aspects of behavioral responses of arctic foxes towards human activity, the third paper evaluates potential fitness consequences and the fourth paper focus on the tourist aspect of the interaction. Behavioral changes in response to tourism disturbance that have been identified in the foxes include changes in vigilance and probability of hiding (Paper I), temporal activity shift at the den site (Paper II) and increased tolerance to human activity (Paper I, Paper II). Juvenile summer survival was higher at disturbed dens compared with undisturbed dens during years of declining small rodent densities (Paper III). Small rodent decline years is when the predation on arctic foxes is presumed to be highest and we suggest that the positive fitness effect could be mediated by a human-induced predator refuge for the foxes in close proximity of human activity. On the tourist aspect, we have identified effects on behavior, knowledge and awareness of the situation for arctic foxes and related conservation work (Paper IV). Overall, results in this thesis showed a high level of context-dependency, which highlights the importance of considering factors such as food availability, intra-species interactions and individual traits such as previous experience with humans. Consequently, the work in this thesis together with ongoing studies of hormonal stress responses constitutes one of the more comprehensive scientific studies of tourism effects on terrestrial mammals. The output from this thesis brings important deliverables for species-specific management and conservation, but also for other species given the rapidly growing interest for wildlife tourism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2024. p. 24
Keywords
wildlife tourism, human disturbance, human-wildlife interaction, conservation, predation, arctic fox
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-227484 (URN)978-91-8014-721-7 (ISBN)978-91-8014-722-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2024-05-02, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2024-04-09 Created: 2024-03-14 Last updated: 2024-03-26Bibliographically approved

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Larm, MalinNorén, KarinAngerbjörn, Anders

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