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Movement upscaled: From behavioural responses to population dynamics of interacting animal species (MoveUP)

Interspecific interactions between animals are key to their local population and community dynamics. At the community level, which is pertinent to species distributions, biodiversity patterns, and conservation, interactions are typically considered aggregated as effects of species’ densities on each other. However, interactions occur first and foremost at the individual level and through behaviour. To understand population dynamics fully and to build effective predictive models, we synergise the two perspectives. The project has three modules:

  • Provisioning of statistical methods: We develop methods for analyzing animal tracking data. In particular, we look into methods for analyzing high-frequency data (e.g. data with multiple observations per minute) identifying fine-scale spatiotemporal interactions between individuals (e.g. attraction and avoidance), and evaluate and improve robustness of methods
  • Interactive movements of songbird species: We use the ATLAS telemetry system to track the fine-scale movements of two bunting species, the yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) and corn bunting (Emberiza calandra). With this, we investigate if and how individuals of the different species respond to each other during their regular activities such as foraging and territorial maintenance. Finally, we study how space use and interactions impact individual performance and fitness.
  • Consequences of fine-scale interactions at the community level: We investigate how fine-scale interactions of species during their everyday activities scale up to effects at the level of an individual's life time (e.g. fitness parameters) and at the population level (e.g. population spatial patterns and population dynamics). For this, we mainly use modelling approaches.

Behavioural niche differentiation and spatiotemporal segregation

We can consider biodiversity at different scales, e.g. globally, regionally (meta-communities) or locally (communities). At the local scale, a key concept of how species coexistence is maintained is niche differentiation: species differ, at least partly, in their ecological niches and thus reduce competition. Typical aspects of niches are habitat and resources (e.g. food). Another aspect by which species may reduce competition, which is less studied, is spatiotemporal segregation though different movement strategies (while principally exploiting the same resources) or active avoidance of competing species. We study such mechanisms conceptually,  theoretically (through modelling) and empirically (e.g. case study on a rodent community).

This is an associated project to BioMove