Edge Effects of Anthropogenic Barriers on Protected Mammal Ecosystems

Thematic Focus:
Agriculture, Biodiversity and Sustainability
Involved Countries:
Switzerland, EU, South Africa

Received Funding By:

Comparative Risk Assessment of Physical and Metaphorical Fences to Mitigate Human-Wildlife Conflict

PhD Project, Zoology Dep. Environmental Sciences at University of Basel in Cooperation with the Animal Demography Unit at University of Cape Town UCT

The proposed research project will dramatically improve the scarce knowledge of the relationship of fences and other human-made barriers and mammalian wildlife demography by comparatively assessing the permeability of these structures using photographic camera traps in South African and central European areas of increased conservation value.

Veterinary and administrative fences were often erected without bearing the conservation of the large majority of species in mind and they thus interfere with the spatial habitat requirements. The impact on habitat fragmentation (especially on endangered and vulnerable species) in considered to be severe, but remains unknown without scientific investigation.Anthropogenic barriers are breached by certain species because their access to resources is limited, their migratory behaviour is inhibited or the predation pressure displays an unnatural incline across the ecotone. Imagery from camera traps and aerial drones can reveal the behavioural adaptations of wild species towards these barriers.Investigating the wider zone around a barrier by creating a biodiversity inventory is the foundation to calculate the edge effect impact depth of the barrier system. The spatial distribution pattern obtained by camera traps, allows the identification of movement patterns and habitat corridors in a non-invasive way and methodologically reduces the scientific need for anaesthetics and animal handling.Some barriers could allow for an increase in permeability especially towards a number of smaller species. This can be of uttermost importance to increase the health of an ecosystem, when pressure gradients exist across the barrier that result in financial losses and in potentially lethal management interventions. Specific openings, swing gates or wider mesh can be the solution to limit the conflict around fence-breaching, burrowing species such as warthogs, aardvarks and porcupines and predator exclusion questions.Alternative barrier solutions such as metaphorical fences can provide a way to separate biodiversity from processes that threaten it without the manifestation of a physical fence. Giving guidelines and instructions for these alternative solutions can increase sustainability and reduce human-wildlife conflict.
PhD Candidate: Adrian F. Meyer
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