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2015 | 60 | 1 |
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Edge effect and influence of economic growth on Eurasian lynx mortality in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, Poland

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Eurasian lynx is one of most widely distributed felid species. However, populations in central Europe are strongly fragmented and limited to forest areas, which may influence their sustainability and gene flow. We studied the edge effect on mortality of a highly isolated population of Eurasian lynx in the Białowieża Primeval Forest (NE Poland) during the 20-year period (1991–2011) of high economic development in Poland. Based on radio-tracking data collected in 1991–1996 (low gross national income per capita; low GNI PC) and 2004–2011 (high GNI PC) and recorded mortality cases, we analysed annual rates and causes of mortality and spatial distribution of death sites relative to the distance from the forest edge. We found significantly higher mortality of lynx during the low GNI PC phase of the economic growth than during high GNI PC (33 and 16 %, respectively). While anthropogenic factors played a dominant role in lynx mortality during low GNI PC, natural factors prevailed afterwards. We found a significantly higher proportion of lynx deaths than expected in the edge and outer zone than in the core of the Białowieża Forest. Both areas differ significantly in the proportions of mortality causes with anthropogenic factors being the main source of mortality in the outer zone. Our results indicate that the decline of lynx mortality in Poland could be related to the improving of the economic situation in the country after the collapse of communism and reduced significance of anthropogenic factors (mainly poaching). Additionally, the outskirts of the forest may function as population sinks, which may reduce the dispersal of lynx and gene flow between populations inhabiting different forest patches.
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  • Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Bialowieza, Poland
  • Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Bialowieza, Poland
  • Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Bialowieza, Poland
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