Detecting species interactions using remote cameras: effects on small mammals of predators, conspecifics, and climate
Lazenby, BT and Mooney, N and Dickman, CR, Detecting species interactions using remote cameras: effects on small mammals of predators, conspecifics, and climate, Ecosphere, 6, (12) Article 266. ISSN 2150-8925 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Effective conservation management requires an understanding of the source and direction of the many interactions that occur within ecological communities. Without this understanding, management interventions such as control or eradication of introduced species can have unexpected and undesirable outcomes. One of the challenges for wildlife managers is to garner relevant information for their site of management. In this paper we describe how images of mammals captured on remote cameras can be used to uncover behavioral interactions that can in turn help to identify and prioritize areas for more explicit research or management. Our cameras were set repeatedly at four sites over three years in Tasmania, Australia, and we used a series of generalized linear mixed models to interpret relative changes in count data of three species of small mammals: the introduced black rat Rattus rattus, and the native long-tailed mouse Pseudomys higginsi and swamp rat Rattus lutreolus velutinus. We also included two potential predators, the introduced feral cat Felis catus and the native Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii. We found that counts of the two species of native small mammals were correlated positively with each other, that swamp rats had a negative effect on black rats, and that black rats had a negative effect on the long-tailed mouse. Devils were important effects in most small mammal models. Despite their effect probably being underestimated by the remote camera survey method, feral cats were included in models for the long-tailed mouse. On the basis of the inclusion of native and both species of introduced mammals in long-tailed mouse models, we propose that the long-tailed mouse is a priority for further research. This research should clarify the competitive dominance and predatory pressure exerted by the black rat and feral cat, respectively, on this species, and also the potential for management of either introduced species to increase the impact of the other. We conclude that remote cameras can help to uncover cryptic or unsuspected interactions within ecological communities, and hence provide an informed basis for developing targeted research questions to increase the effectiveness of wildlife management.