When Good Animals Love Bad Habitats: Ecological Traps and the Conservation of Animal Populations

Published on Dec 1, 2004in Conservation Biology 5.89
· DOI :10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00417.x
James Battin4
Estimated H-index: 4
(Northern Arizona University)
The concept of the ecological trap, a low-quality habitat that animals prefer over other available habitats of higher quality, has appeared in the ecological literature irregularly for over 30 years, but the topic has received relatively little attention, and evidence for traps remains largely anecdotal. Recently, however, the ecological trap concept has been the subject of a flurry of theoretical activity that is likely to raise its profile substantially, particularly in conservation biology. Ecological trap theory suggests that, under most circumstances, the presence of a trap in a landscape will drive a local population to extinction. A number of empirical studies, almost all of birds, suggest the existence of traps and demonstrate the difficulties of recognizing them in the field. Evidence for ecological traps has primarily been found in habitats modified by human activities, either directly (e.g., through the mowing of grassland birds' nests) or indirectly (e.g., via human-mediated invasion of exotic species), but some studies suggest that traps may occur even in relatively pristine areas. Taken together, these theoretical and empirical results suggest that traps may be relatively common in rapidly changing landscapes. It is therefore important for conservation biologists to be able to identify traps and differentiate them from sinks. Commonly employed approaches for population modeling, which tend to assume a source-sink framework and do not consider habitat selection explicitly, may introduce faulty assumptions that mask the effects of ecological traps and lead to overly optimistic predictions about population persistence. Given the potentially dire consequences of ecological traps and the accumulating evidence for their existence, greater attention from the community of conservation biologists is warranted. In particular, it is important for conservation biologists and managers to incorporate into conservation planning an explicit understanding of the relationship between habitat selection and habitat quality.
  • References (50)
  • Citations (593)
Published on Aug 12, 1997in Conservation Biology 5.89
Andrew V. Suarez45
Estimated H-index: 45
(University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign),
Karin S. Pfennig17
Estimated H-index: 17
(University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign),
Scott K. Robinson29
Estimated H-index: 29
(University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign)
We compared the nesting success of a disturbance-dependent species, the Indigo Bunting ( Passerina cyanea), on different kinds of habitat edges in five sites (225 total nests) in southern Illinois from 1989 to 1993. Nest predation rates along agricultural and abrupt, permanent edges (e.g., wildlife openings, campgrounds) were nearly twice as high as rates along more gradual edges where plant succession was allowed to occur (e.g., treefalls, streamsides, gaps created by selective logging ). Level...
105 Citations Source Cite
Published on Mar 1, 1969in Acta Biotheoretica 0.86
Stephen Dewitt Fretwell4
Estimated H-index: 4
(North Carolina State University),
James Stevan Calver2
Estimated H-index: 2
(North Carolina State University)
This example is provided so that non-theorists may see actual applications of the theory previously described. The Dickcissel sex ratio is employed as an indirect index of suitability. A sex ratio index was found to be correlated positively with density. This is consistent with the hypothesis that territorial behavior in the males of this species limits their density. This study provides a valid example of how the problem can be approached and offers a first step in the eventual identification o...
3,079 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jun 1, 1991in The American Naturalist 4.26
Gordon H. Orians36
Estimated H-index: 36
James F. Wittenberger7
Estimated H-index: 7
Female yellow-headed blackbirds in eastern Washington State settle to nest at higher densities on marshes with higher emergence rates of odonates, the most important prey delivered to nestlings. However, settling densities of females were not correlated with odonate emergence rates on individual territories or on individual territories plus adjacent ones. Apparently, females assessed production of insects on breeding marshes at the time they settled, and they used this information when making se...
631 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jul 1, 1992in Journal of Wildlife Management 2.06
Jay J. Rotella30
Estimated H-index: 30
John T. Ratti15
Estimated H-index: 15
Although the primary mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) breeding area in North America has been greatly modified by agriculture, the relationship between habitat loss and mallard recruitment is not well understood. Consequently, we used radio telemetry to estimate brood and duckling survival for 69 mallard broods in southwestern Manitoba, 1987-89, and tested for effects of habitat conditions and hatching date. Annual brood and duckling survival averaged 0.49 (range =0.34−0.70) and 0.22 (range =0.16−0....
105 Citations Source Cite
Published on Oct 1, 2003in Ecological Entomology 2.24
Leslie Ries18
Estimated H-index: 18
(Northern Arizona University),
William F. Fagan55
Estimated H-index: 55
(University of Maryland, College Park)
Ecological traps, where animals actively select poor habitat for reproduction over superior habitat, are generally associated with birds at forest edges. This study examines oviposition preference, predation, and parasitism rates in the mantid Stagmomantis limbata to determine the potential generality of this phenomenon. 2. Egg case (oothecae) densities were measured across two edge types (cotton- wood and desert scrub) within desert riparian ecosystems. A positive edge effect in oothecae densit...
55 Citations Source Cite
Published on Oct 1, 2002in Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15.94
Martin A. Schlaepfer17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Cornell University),
Michael C. Runge31
Estimated H-index: 31
(Patuxent Wildlife Research Center),
Paul W. Sherman50
Estimated H-index: 50
(Cornell University)
Abstract Organisms often rely on environmental cues to make behavioral and life-history decisions. However, in environments that have been altered suddenly by humans, formerly reliable cues might no longer be associated with adaptive outcomes. In such cases, organisms can become ‘trapped' by their evolutionary responses to the cues and experience reduced survival or reproduction. Ecological traps occur when organisms make poor habitat choices based on cues that correlated formerly with habitat q...
805 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 1995in Biological Conservation 4.66
Miguel A. Marini1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign),
Scott K. Robinson29
Estimated H-index: 29
(Illinois Natural History Survey),
Edward J. Heske26
Estimated H-index: 26
(Illinois Natural History Survey)
Abstract Edge habitats may be considered ‘ecological traps’ for breeding birds if they attract many birds because of apparently favorable nesting conditions but have higher nest predation levels than interior habitats. Four alternative, nonexclusive hypotheses have been suggested to explain why edges might have higher predation levels than interior habitats: (1) predator activity is higher in areas with higher prey density (density-dependent predation); (2) predators are more abundant on edges t...
135 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 1989in Journal of Wildlife Management 2.06
Robert L. Crabtree2
Estimated H-index: 2
Linda S. Broome1
Estimated H-index: 1
Michael L. Wolfe15
Estimated H-index: 15
We compared characteristics of successful gadwall (Anas strepera) nests and those destroyed by mammalian predators (i.e., striped skunks [Mephitis mephitis]). Lateral cover density, understory cover height, species richness, vegetative penetrability, and patch size were significant determinants of the fate of a nest. Nest success was also influenced by 3 nonvegetative variables: minimum distance to water, dike width, and nest initiation date. Predation rates on nests differed (P 1.0 m), dense bi...
104 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 1988in The American Naturalist 4.26
H. Ronald Pulliam18
Estimated H-index: 18
Animal and plant populations often occupy a variety of local areas and may experience different local birth and death rates in different areas. When this occurs, reproductive surpluses from productive source habitats may maintain populations in sink habitats, where local reproductive success fails to keep pace with local mortality. For animals with active habitat selection, an equilibrium with both source and sink habitats occupied can be both ecologically and evolutionarily stable. If the surpl...
3,822 Citations Source Cite
  • References (50)
  • Citations (593)
Cited By593
Published on Jan 1, 2007in Ecology and Society 3.26
Caren B. Cooper25
Estimated H-index: 25
Janis L. Dickinson31
Estimated H-index: 31
+ 1 AuthorsRick Bonney19
Estimated H-index: 19
Human activities, such as mining, forestry, and agriculture, strongly influence processes in natural systems. Because conservation has focused on managing and protecting wildlands, research has focused on understanding the indirect influence of these human activities on wildlands. Although a conservation focus on wildlands is critically important, the concept of residential area as an ecosystem is relatively new, and little is known about the potential of such areas to contribute to the conserva...
349 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 2012in Developments in Environmental Modelling
M. T. Carone3
Estimated H-index: 3
(University of Molise),
Tiziana Simoniello6
Estimated H-index: 6
(National Research Council)
+ 1 AuthorsMaria Laura Carranza23
Estimated H-index: 23
(University of Molise)
Abstract For studying river basins criticalities, it is mandatory to take into account the multilayered structure of the river/landscape system. We propose an integrated analysis that combines habitat suitability (HS) maps for a riverine key species (the endangered Eurasian otter) with data on fluvial functionality (FF) as an instrument to reveal more vulnerable fluvial portions in need of restoration. The approach was tested on two river catchments with different anthropogenic pressures, both f...
3 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 1, 2015in Ecological Modelling 2.51
Brett A. DeGregorio7
Estimated H-index: 7
(University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign),
James D. Westervelt6
Estimated H-index: 6
(Engineer Research and Development Center),
Jinelle H. Sperry14
Estimated H-index: 14
(Engineer Research and Development Center)
Understanding how climate change will affect the abundance, distribution, and behavior of wildlife has garnered substantial attention, but predicting how climate change may alter interspecific relationships is more challenging and has received less attention. Here, we use agent-based modeling to explore how climate warming may alter activity patterns and habitat use of ratsnakes and how this will change their interactions with nesting birds. Overall nest predation by ratsnakes increased with war...
7 Citations Source Cite
Published on Aug 1, 2015in Arthropod-plant Interactions
Anupam Sunny1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Delhi),
Swati Diwakar5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of Delhi),
Gyan P. Sharma13
Estimated H-index: 13
(University of Delhi)
Invasive plants disrupt both floral and faunal communities of the invaded regions. Influence of invasive plants on ecosystem functioning and dynamics in the invaded region can be understood by taking into consideration complex interactions between native insects and non-native plants. This review attempts to synthesize available key literature on the effects of plant invasion on native insect communities and the role of native insects in control or spread of invasive plants. The toxic or attract...
14 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 2015in Biological Conservation 4.66
Alexander K. Fremier17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Washington State University),
Michael Kiparsky10
Estimated H-index: 10
(University of California, Berkeley)
+ 7 AuthorsJ. Michael Scott28
Estimated H-index: 28
(University of Idaho)
article i nfo A crucial gap exists between the static nature of the United States' existing protected areas and the dynamic impacts of 21st century stressors, such as habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change. Connectivity is a valuableelementforbridgingthatgapandbuildingtheecologicalresilienceofexistingprotectedareas.However, creating terrestrial connectivity by designing individual migration corridors across fragmented landscapes is arguablyuntenableata national scale.We explorethepote...
23 Citations Source Cite
Published on Oct 1, 2015in Biological Conservation 4.66
Roel F. May1
Estimated H-index: 1
Abstract The construction and operation of wind-power plants may affect birds through collision mortality, reduced habitat utilization due to disturbance, barriers to movement and habitat modifications, with the nature and magnitude of those effects being site- and species-specific. Birds may however manage these effects through fleeing, activity shifts or changed habitat utilization; usually termed avoidance. Given the important role avoidance plays in estimating the impact wind-power developme...
15 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 1, 2017in Biological Invasions 3.05
Evin T. Carter4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Tennessee),
Michael J. Ravesi2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs)
+ 1 AuthorsBruce A. Kingsbury12
Estimated H-index: 12
(Purdue University)
Exotic plant management often begins only after introduced taxa become widespread and problematic. Control efforts at this stage have a higher potential to lead to unintended outcomes in native systems. We explored the impacts of ongoing invasive plant management on a native ectotherm, the copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), in a landscape heavily impacted by multiple nonnative plant species. We found that habitats undergoing invasive plant control are preferred by snakes over other available h...
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Published on Dec 1, 2016in Urban Ecosystems 2.00
John M. Marzluff37
Estimated H-index: 37
(University of Washington),
Barbara Clucas8
Estimated H-index: 8
(University of Washington)
+ 1 AuthorsJack H. DeLap4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Washington)
Correlations between urbanization and biodiversity are well known, but the causes driving such associations are lacking. We used a long-term, quasi-experimental approach to study the responses of avian communities to suburban and exurban development around Seattle, WA, USA. We measured indices of bird abundance, reproduction, and survival for 12 years at many locations, including 5 forest ‘reserves,’ 10 existing ‘developments,’ and 11 ‘changing’ sites where ongoing development converted forests ...
12 Citations Source Cite
Published on Nov 1, 2015in Biological Conservation 4.66
Masayuki Senzaki5
Estimated H-index: 5
(Hokkaido University),
Yuichi Yamaura17
Estimated H-index: 17
Futoshi Nakamura25
Estimated H-index: 25
(Hokkaido University)
Abstract Given the global reduction in biodiversity, conservation actions must occur even with only a partial understanding of the distribution and abundance of species in various locales. The concept of surrogate species, those whose protection affords the protection of other species, is considered a conservation short-cut. Although surrogate species have been used as practical conservation tools, whether they serve as indicators of the reproductive output of other species is still unknown. We ...
7 Citations Source Cite
Published on Aug 1, 2012in Journal of Applied Ecology 5.74
Louise A. McKenzie5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of New South Wales),
Robert B. Brooks54
Estimated H-index: 54
(University of New South Wales),
Emma L. Johnston33
Estimated H-index: 33
(University of New South Wales)
Summary 1. The global transfer of species by human vectors is continuing despite the use of managerial controls such as antifouling biocides and pesticide applications. The process of introduction now exposes species to novel conditions which may select for tolerance to a contaminant. Invader establishment success is influenced by both the supply of invasive propagules and disturbance. Therefore, it is important to understand whether tolerance to an anthropogenic disturbance, such as contaminati...
11 Citations Source Cite