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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 (611)
Published on Dec 1, 2003in Oikos 3.71
William B. Kristan44
Estimated H-index: 44
(California State University San Marcos)
Ecological traps, poor-quality habitat that nonetheless attract individuals, have been observed in both natural and human-altered settings. Until recently, ecological traps were considered a kind of source--sink system, but source-sink theory does not model maladaptive habitat choice, and therefore cannot accurately represent ecological traps or predict their population-level consequences. Although recent models of ecological traps addressed this problem, they used patch-based models containing ...
168 Citations Source Cite
Published on Oct 1, 2003in Ecological Entomology 2.24
Leslie Ries19
Estimated H-index: 19
(Northern Arizona University),
William F. Fagan56
Estimated H-index: 56
(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 Jan 1, 2003in The Condor 2.72
Wendy A. Estes2
Estimated H-index: 2
(University of Arizona),
R. William Mannan11
Estimated H-index: 11
(University of Arizona)
Abstract We monitored 18 nests of Cooper's Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) in Tucson, Arizona, and 18 nests in rural areas of southeastern Arizona from 1999–2000 to compare feeding behavior of urban- and rural-nesting hawks. We recorded the frequency of prey deliveries, the approximate size and type of prey items, and the behavior of hawks during each delivery. Differences between rates of prey delivery at urban and rural nests decreased as nestlings grew. Rate of prey delivery at urban nests exceede...
50 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. Sherman52
Estimated H-index: 52
(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...
820 Citations Source Cite
Published on Oct 1, 2002in Biological Conservation 4.66
Stuart J. Little1
Estimated H-index: 1
Robert G. Harcourt37
Estimated H-index: 37
(Macquarie University),
Anthony P. Clevenger30
Estimated H-index: 30
(University of Tennessee)
Abstract A number of studies have proposed that wildlife passages beneath roads and railway lines might be exploited by mammalian predators as ‘prey-traps’ with prey-species being effectively funnelled into areas of high concentration. This proposition has raised the possibility that use of passages by predators may reduce the effectiveness of passages in conserving other forms of wildlife. We review the literature and conclude that evidence for the existence of prey-traps is scant, largely anec...
52 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jun 1, 2002in Restoration Ecology 2.54
Heather L. Germaine3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Arizona Game and Fish Department),
Stephen S. Germaine5
Estimated H-index: 5
(Arizona Game and Fish Department)
We examined the effects of presettlement forest restoration treatments on the nesting success of Western Bluebirds in ponderosa pine forests of northwestern Arizona, U.S.A. From 1998 to 2001 we monitored 97 active Western Bluebird nests, 41 in current-condition untreated forest and 56 in restoration-treated forest. We found no effect of restoration treatments on clutch size and little effect on the number of nestlings per nest. However, in treated forest stands number of fledglings per nest aver...
35 Citations Source Cite
Published on May 1, 2002in Forest Science 1.36
Danielle DiMauro1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Maine),
Malcolm L. Hunter42
Estimated H-index: 42
(University of Maine)
Vernal-pool breeding amphibians often oviposit in anthropogenic pools formed during industrial forest-management activities, as well as in natural ephemeral pools. We quantified wood frog (Rana sylvatica) and spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) reproductive effort and metamorph emergence, pool hydroperiods and environmental features, and the density of natural and anthropo- genic pools across the landscape to compare the reproductive effort and success of amphibians breeding in natural and ...
49 Citations Source Cite
Published on Sep 1, 2001in The American Naturalist 4.26
Miguel Delibes48
Estimated H-index: 48
(Spanish National Research Council),
Pilar Gaona6
Estimated H-index: 6
Pablo Ferreras31
Estimated H-index: 31
(University of Castilla–La Mancha)
Abstract: Habitat sinks can attract dispersing animals if high mortality or breeding failure are difficult to detect (e.g., when due to human hunting or pollution). Using a simple deterministic model, we explore the dynamics of such source‐sink systems considering three scenarios: an avoided sink, no habitat preference, and an attractive sink. In the second two scenarios, there is a threshold proportion of sink habitat above which the whole population decreases to extinction, but this extinction...
237 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jun 1, 2001in Ecological Applications 4.39
Therese M. Donovan27
Estimated H-index: 27
(State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry),
Frank R. Thompson45
Estimated H-index: 45
(University of Missouri)
Most species occupy both high- and low-quality habitats throughout their ranges. As habitats become modified through anthropogenic change, low-quality habitat may become a more dominant component of the landscape for some species. To conserve species, information on how to assess habitat quality and guidelines for maintaining or eliminating low-quality habitats are needed. We developed a source-sink population model that depicted the annual cycle of a generalized migratory songbird to address th...
179 Citations Source Cite
Published on Apr 1, 2001in Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15.94
Peter J. Mayhew27
Estimated H-index: 27
(University of York)
Abstract When theory predicts which phenotypes are well adapted to a given environment, the data do not always match the predictions. Host-plant selection by herbivorous insects is one such example. Herbivorous insects often appear to make poor choices about where their offspring should develop. New evidence presented by Scheirs et al. suggests that adult insects can choose oviposition sites that enhance their own long-term fitness at the expense of their individual offspring. This suggests that...
199 Citations Source Cite
Cited By611
Published on May 24, 2019in Scientific Reports 4.12
Lain E. Pardo2
Estimated H-index: 2
(James Cook University),
Mason J. Campbell7
Estimated H-index: 7
(James Cook University)
+ 3 AuthorsWilliam F. Laurance91
Estimated H-index: 91
(James Cook University)
While the conservation role of remaining natural habitats in anthropogenic landscapes is clear, the degree to which agricultural matrices impose limitations to animal use is not well understood, but vital to assess species’ resilience to land use change. Using an occupancy framework, we evaluated how oil palm plantations affect the occurrence and habitat use of terrestrial mammals in the Colombian Llanos. Further, we evaluated the effect of undergrowth vegetation and proximity to forest on habit...
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Published on Jan 11, 2019
Laikun Ma1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Hebei Normal University),
Jianwei Zhang1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Hainan Normal University)
+ 3 AuthorsAnders Pape Møller120
Estimated H-index: 120
(Université Paris-Saclay)
Background Floods and other extreme events have disastrous effects on wetland breeding birds. However, such events and their consequences are difficult to study due to their rarity and unpredictable occurrence.
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Published on Jun 1, 2019in Journal of Insect Conservation 1.56
Andrea R. Kautz1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Ohio State University),
Mary M. Gardiner17
Estimated H-index: 17
(Ohio State University)
Long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae) are common within U.S. agroecosystems, but rarely the focus of ecological study. Given a documented sensitivity to environmental changes, at least in natural systems like grasslands and reed marshes, we aimed to determine how local management and landscape-scale factors might influence the community assemblage of Dolichopodidae found within vegetable farms. During the summer of 2013 and 2014, pan trapping was used to sample the long-legged fly community present...
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Published on Jun 1, 2019in Science of The Total Environment 4.61
Valeriya Komyakova (University of Sydney), Dean Chamberlain1
Estimated H-index: 1
(University of Melbourne)
+ 1 AuthorsStephen E. Swearer25
Estimated H-index: 25
(University of Melbourne)
Abstract Artificial reefs (ARs) have been advocated and implemented as management tools for recreational fisheries, species conservation and habitat replacement. For ARs to function as substitute habitat for degraded natural reefs, they should perform as close as possible to local natural reefs, however this is seldom investigated. Here we evaluated the performance of new custom-designed reef structures (CDARs) as fish habitat. As a benchmark for their success, we compared fish abundance, divers...
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Published on Jun 1, 2019in Global Change Biology 9.00
Gabrielle A. Gurule-Small2
Estimated H-index: 2
(University of Denver),
Robin M. Tinghitella5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of Denver)
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Published on May 9, 2019in Journal of Fish Biology 1.70
Michael Simpson , Rebecca L. Morris7
Estimated H-index: 7
(University of Melbourne)
+ 1 AuthorsRoss A. Coleman25
Estimated H-index: 25
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Published on May 23, 2019in Journal of Mammalogy 2.14
Douglas A. Kelt29
Estimated H-index: 29
(University of California, Davis),
Edward J. Heske26
Estimated H-index: 26
(University of New Mexico)
+ 7 AuthorsStefan Sommer10
Estimated H-index: 10
(University of Zurich)
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Published on May 8, 2019in Journal of Wildlife Management 2.06
Darren A. Clark2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife),
Priscilla K. Coe6
Estimated H-index: 6
(Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
+ 3 AuthorsDewaine H. Jackson7
Estimated H-index: 7
(Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
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Published on May 1, 2019in Ecology and Evolution 2.34
Robin Hale12
Estimated H-index: 12
(University of Melbourne),
Valentina Colombo4
Estimated H-index: 4
(University of Melbourne)
+ 2 AuthorsStephen E. Swearer25
Estimated H-index: 25
(University of Melbourne)
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Published on May 1, 2019in Canadian Journal of Zoology 1.18
Tara L. Imlay2
Estimated H-index: 2
(Dalhousie University),
Donavon Nickerson (Dalhousie University), Andrew G. Horn26
Estimated H-index: 26
(Dalhousie University)
When an environmental cue that previously signaled a suitable habitat leads an animal to use an unsuitable site, individual fitness can decrease, ultimately leading to population declines. Such “ec...
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