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Socio-economic transformation and size of animal population – how does it sound?

The results of an international team of scientists, together with Přemysl Štych from the Department of Applied Geoinformatics and Cartography, suggest that the size of the population of large mammals in Eastern Europe was significantly influenced by socio-economic transformation. How? Read further!

Negative economic shocks can control the number of animals. Hunting or poaching are strategies for getting food, furthermore the political situation in such times is not generally environmentally friendly. On the other hand, during the wars and other bad conditions, areas without human impact can be created.

The authors focus on countries in Eastern Europe after the decline of the Soviet Union and the Eastern block of socialist countries: Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine. They were interested in the development of populations of large mammals: moose, wild boar, red deer, roe deer, bears, lynxes and wolves.

Population dynamics. Year 1990 as 100 %. Source: authors.

Based on economic characteristics, the authors distinguished between two groups of countries – with slow transformations (Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine) and with fast ones (Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia). The size of the population was measured by per cent, with the year 1990 being the starting point. Changes of population sizes differ – countries with slow transformations recorded a decrease, most significantly Ukraine. On the other hand, populations increase in countries with fast transformations, Slovakia being the best example. Moreover, trends in countries with slow transformations were more changeable, while countries with fast transformations show a clear trend and higher numbers of animals.

These changes are the result of many factors, e.g.: the restitution and privatization of land can lead to the intensification and also to the abandonment of landscape use. In Baltic countries, the strict protection of agricultural properties caused a reduction of the moose population, while in another place the abandoning of agricultural land leads to a lack of nourishment for wild boar. Changes in ownership and abandoning are not isolated – poaching and institutional changes also belong to factors. Recently, the spread of predators (lynxes, bears, wolves) has caused an increase of their numbers and a reduction in the numbers of herbivores, which are becoming prey. The aforementioned results can be used for animal protection in cases of similar socio-economic transformations and conditions.

Bragina, E. V, Ives, A. R., Pidgeon, A. M., Balčiauskas, L., Csányi, S., Khoyetskyy, P., … Radeloff, V. C. (2018). Wildlife population changes across Eastern Europe after the collapse of socialism. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.1770

Tomáš Janík

Published: Sep 16, 2018 06:10 PM

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