Kastamonu, Turkey

Anil Soyumert, University of Kastamonu
Alper Ertürk, University of Kastamonu
Dilşad Dağtekin, University of Zurich
Arpat Ozgul, University of Zurich

Seasons have a great influence on the behaviour of wild animals. Especially in our temperate climate zone, where there are four clearly distinct seasons and hardly any extreme temperatures, wildlife populations use their habitats differently depending on the season. For example, the onset of winter changes foraging patterns of many animals.

In the future, climate change will disrupt the existing seasonal patterns – and that, in turn, may have significant consequences for wildlife.

This is why Dilşad Dağtekin and Arpat Ozgul from the University of Zurich are investigating how seasons affect the habitat use and co-occurrence of different large mammal species in northwestern Turkey. For this, they are collaborating with Anil Soyumert and Alper Ertürk from the University of Kastamonu, who have been collecting camera trap data in the area for over 10 years.

Although seasonal variation is an important factor, many analyses of wildlife populations are based on annual models. Dilşad, however, evaluates the camera trap data using seasonal models to understand the seasonal life history adaptations of wildlife.

Dilşad’s research focuses on the brown bear (Ursus arctos), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), gray wolf (Canis lupus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild boar (Sus scrofa), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), brown hare (Lepus europaeus) and red deer (Cervus elaphus). She wants to find out how seasonal variation can be incorporated into conservation measures and wildlife management plans for these species.

However, the study is not only about the effects that seasons have on individual animal species. Dilşad is also studying how different species interact with each other and according to which patterns they co-occur in the region. For example, she and her team have found that the main prey of the Eurasian lynx in Turkey is not the roe deer, as elsewhere, but the hare.

Turkey is an under-studied region for its fauna. Yet the management of large mammals such as the lynx, deer or bear is particularly important because they play a key role in most ecosystems.

Studying seasonal fluctuations and identifying the factors responsible for them can serve as a basis for developing effective conservation plans. In particular, long-term projects such as the camera trapping research of Dilşad, Arpat, Alper, and Anil will be valuable in the future. It will help us understand the responses of wildlife populations to climate change and other human-induced disturbances.