A Consumer-Resource Framework for Evaluating Anthropogenic Effects on Wildlife and Habitat
thesisposted on 2016-07-01, 00:00 authored by Victoria M. Hunt
I use a consumer-resource framework to narrow the gap between data and theory in the study of competitive coexistence. First, I develop a generalizable consumer-resource model with implications for wildlife populations that are subsidized by humans. The model suggests that improving local conditions of consumers in one habitat may displace consumers from a spatially separate habitat if the consumers require a shared resource. I describe how outcomes from the model could be evaluated empirically. I then present two studies in which I use classical field ecology to investigate population dynamics in urban wildlife consumer species. Eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) in an urban park occurred in higher population densities than populations in natural habitats, a potential consequence of subsidization via landscaping. In a study of Black-Crowned Night-Herons (BCNH; Nycticorax nycticorax) in Chicago, BCNH showed behavioral flexibility in habitat selection. This flexibility may be facilitated by an overabundance of a resource shared among multiple colonies over an expansive area: the Lake Michigan foodshed. In the last three chapters, I describe management efforts to control invasive species, and environmental conditions that may affect success of such efforts to intentionally reassign resources (e.g., physical space and soil nutrients) from invasive consumers to diverse assemblages of native consumers. This work demonstrates the utility of applying a consumer-resource framework in a range of ecological scenarios to achieve conservation objectives. I propose expanding this approach to address the core challenge put forward by reconciliation ecology; increasing biodiversity in habitats that meet both human land-use needs and the needs of non-human species.
AdvisorBrown, Joel S.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Illinois at Chicago
Committee MemberPlotnick, Roy E. Minor, Emily S. Lonsdorf, Eric V. Larkin, Daniel J.