Urban areas present new challenges to wildlife communities. Special conditions created by human disturbance and novel stressors, such as noise or light, affect both species response to urban environment and species interactions. In order to better understand species and communities’ response to urban environment and to predict (multi)species distributions, I work with hierarchical multi-response models to study community composition and analyse how species interactions are modified by anthropogenic disturbance in an urbanization gradient. I do this with data from invertebrates, birds and mammals, including competition/facilitation relationships, as well as predator-prey interactions.
Movement plays a major role in shaping population densities and contact rates among individuals, two factors that are particularly relevant for disease outbreaks. Although any differences in movement behaviour due to individual characteristics of the host and heterogeneity in landscape structure are likely to have considerable consequences for disease dynamics, these mechanisms are neglected in most epidemiological studies. Therefore, developing a general understanding how the interaction of movement behaviour and spatial heterogeneity shapes host densities, contact rates and ultimately pathogen spread is a key question in ecological and epidemiological research.
In this project, we have addressed this gap using both theoretical and empirical modelling approaches. In the theoretical part of my thesis, we have investigated bottom-up effects of individual movement behaviour and landscape structure on host density, contact rates, and ultimately disease dynamics. We have extended an established agent-based model that simulates ecological and epidemiological key processes to incorporate explicit movement of host individuals and landscape complexity. In the empirical part, we have focused on the spatiotemporal dynamics of Classical Swine Fever in a wild boar population by analysing epidemiological data that was collected during an outbreak in Northern Germany persisting for eight years.
For large carnivores in fragmented landscapes such as the jaguar, connectivity is a conservation priority to secure population viability and genetic diversity. Management of jaguar populations requires an understanding on how the species’ movement is influenced by individual traits and the structure and configuration of their landscape. Therefore, I aim at developing a spatially explicit agent-based model of jaguar movement and population dynamics, to quantify functional connectivity and population viability in Middle America, a region which is particularly critical for jaguar connectivity and where jaguars have started exhibiting early signs of genetic isolation.
Understanding species distributions is fundamental for wildlife management and landscape planning. Species distributions are largely driven by their habitat associations and their response to environmental or anthropogenic factors. In addition, species distributions and the structure of ecological communities are also driven by species interactions such as predation or competition. Using data that were collected in fundamentally different ways complicates the process of modeling the distribution and structure of biological communities. Based on this problematic, I will work on evaluating how environmental and anthropogenic drivers shape the assembly and dynamics of mammalian communities at different spatiotemporal scales.