Disruption and disease: How does population management affect disease risk in wild bird populations?
Downing, Beatrice Catherine
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To pursue publication of the research
Despite the ubiquity of wildlife management, from reintroductions and supplemental feeding to culling and habitat destruction, very little is known of the effects of management practices on species’ social dynamics. Species’ social structure has the potential to affect not only behaviour and evolution but also the transmission of information or disease. Understanding the effects of population management on social behaviour and organisation is a key step in understanding these species’ ecology. This thesis examines the differences between individuals’ roles in the social structure and what this means for the transmission of disease. It demonstrates how similarity in movement behaviour scales with increasing social circles, how seasonality in movement and seasonality in association rates covary as well as detailing post-cull behavioural changes. It finds that there is the potential for certain individuals (most likely non-breeding individuals) to transmit infection far and wide. It reveals the similarities in movement behaviour and body condition that birds share with their pair and social group. It emphasises the importance of autumn and winter movement in the transmission of infectious disease and it follows the short- and long-term changes in social structure and movement behaviour following a cull. Cull survivors were observed to retain a higher proportion of associations with their previous associates and moved less far in the year following the cull than in the year preceding it. This is the first application of social network analysis to quantify social structure before and after culling. The findings suggest that culling an infected population may facilitate rather than constrain the transmission of disease.
PhD in Biological Sciences