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A Method to Quantify the Effects of Human Disturbance on Animal Populations

Jennifer A. Gill, William J. Sutherland and Andrew R. Watkinson
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Aug., 1996), pp. 786-792
DOI: 10.2307/2404948
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2404948
Page Count: 7
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A Method to Quantify the Effects of Human Disturbance on Animal Populations
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Abstract

1. The extent and consequences of human disturbance on populations of vertebrates are contentious issues in conservation. As recreational and industrial uses of the countryside continue to expand, it is becoming increasingly important that the effects of such disturbance on wildlife are quantified. 2. This study describes a method of quantifying the effect of disturbance, based on measuring the trade-off between resource use and risk of disturbance. This approach is based on one used by ethologists to study the effects of predation risk on patch use. 3. Pink-footed geese, Anser brachyrhynchus, feeding on arable fields, are highly responsive to disturbance from surrounding roads. The extent to which these fields are exploited declines linearly with increasing risk of disturbance. The reduction in use of these feeding grounds caused by disturbance can be quantified by translating the biomass of food not exploited into the number of birds that this food could have supported. 4. This approach allows both quantification of the impact of disturbance on a population, and exploration of the potential consequences of changes in disturbance on the size of populations.

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