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Title: The impact of increasing predation risk and declining food availability on the population dynamics and demography of a long-lived mesopredator
Author: Hoy, Sarah Rose
ISNI:       0000 0004 5348 466X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2015
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Understanding the role that extrinsic processes play in shaping animal population dynamics and demography is a central tenet of population ecology and an issue of vital importance for conservation and wildlife management. The top-down impact of predation and bottom-up influence of food availability are thought to be two of the most important extrinsic processes affecting population dynamics and demography of species occupying middle trophic levels. However, many studies only focus on quantifying the impact of one of these processes in isolation and it is not clear whether the impact of one extrinsic factor on population dynamics and demographic rates is augmented or lessened by changes in other extrinsic factors. In this thesis I examine the extent to which both top-down and bottom-up processes shape population dynamics (population size, recruitment and immigration) and demography (survival, reproduction, life-history trade-offs and reproductive strategies) in a long-lived species, the tawny owl, by taking advantage of a natural increase in predation risk (goshawk abundance) and a decline in food availability (field vole densities). Despite the increase in predation and the decline in food availability, the owl population remained stable, which we posit is due to goshawk predation being selective on individuals with a low reproductive value (juveniles and old individuals) and an increasing number of immigrants entering the population. Selective predation on older owls had a negative impact on the survival of this age class and appeared to be shaping the pattern of actuarial senescence and influencing the strength of the intrinsic trade-off between survival and reproduction. As food availability declined and predation risk increased owls appeared to be switching from an 'eggs in one basket strategy' of saving resources to invest more in fewer breeding attempts in the future, to a 'bet-hedging' strategy of reproducing more often, but investing less per breeding attempt.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Natural Research Ltd ; Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) ; Forestry Commission
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Tawny owl ; Goshawk ; Microtus agrestis ; Animal populations