A systematic survey of the integration of animal behavior into conservation Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The role of behavioral ecology in improving wildlife conservation and management has been the subject of much recent debate. We sought to answer 2 foundational questions about the current use of behavioral knowledge in conservation: To what extent is behavioral knowledge used in wildlife conservation and management, and how does the use of animal behavior differ among conservation fields in both frequency and types of use? We searched the literature for intersections between key fields of animal behavior and conservation and created a systematic heat map (i.e., graphical representation of data where values are represented as colors) to visualize relative efforts. Some behaviors, such as dispersal and foraging, were commonly considered (mean [SE] of 1147.38 [353.11] and 439.44 [108.85] papers per cell, respectively). In contrast, other behaviors, such as learning, social, and antipredatory behaviors were rarely considered (mean [SE] of 33.88 [7.62], 44.81 [10.65], and 22.69 [6.37] papers per cell, respectively). In many cases, awareness of the importance of behavior did not translate into applicable management tools. Our results challenge previous suggestions that there is little association between the fields of behavioral ecology and conservation and reveals tremendous variation in the use of different behaviors in conservation. We recommend that researchers focus on examining underutilized intersections of behavior and conservation themes for which preliminary work shows a potential for improving conservation and management, translating behavioral theory into applicable and testable predictions, and creating systematic reviews to summarize the behavioral evidence within the behavior-conservation intersections for which many studies exist.

publication date

  • January 1, 2016