QLS Seminar Series - Daniel Fortin

Tuesday, February 7, 2023 12:00to13:00

The use of ecological theory to predict animal distribution in changing environments

Daniel Fortin, Université Laval
Tuesday February 7, 12-1pm
Zoom Link: https://mcgill.zoom.us/j/86855481591

Abstract: Descriptive models of resource selection have become dominant tools for predicting wildlife distribution. However, such models often perform poorly in landscapes different from those in which they were developed. Here, we demonstrate how mechanistic models of trophic interactions developed from ecological theory can be powerful tools to explain and predict animal distribution, despite environmental changes. First, we show that optimal foraging theory can be used to anticipate the distribution of bison following their release in a new environment, as well as to identify areas more prone to human-bison conflict. Second, we use game theory to predict the optimal distribution of a predator species interacting with multiple prey species across a broad range of habitat conditions. We demonstrate how food web complexity can drastically alter the optimal spatial game between predators and prey. The distribution of woodland caribou, moose and wolves provides some support for the optimality model. Overall, our work demonstrates how ecological theory can be used to predict animal distribution under conditions where typical models of habitat selection would fail.

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