area di ricerca:

Large carnivores are among the most controversial and challenging group of species to conserve in our modern and crowded world. In Europe, these species are persisting in human-dominated landscapes and largely outside protected areas. In a globally changing world, conservation strategies for supporting wildlife conservation and management depend on the ecological sustainability of landscape (i.e. their ability to support resilient populations in respect to species diversity and viability). The acquisition of such knowledge is difficult because species’ spatial dynamics in response to global change will result from the interaction between the abiotic components of the ecological niche with the species’ population dynamics and dispersal behaviour.In this Phd project, I will focus on one of the most iconic terrestrial carnivore, the brown bear (Ursus arctos). The aims of this project consist in investigating the ecological sustainability of this species and providing practical recommendations for their improvement in Italy. Particularly, I will work with the most complete dataset of the central Italian subpopulation of brown bears (Ursus arctos marsicanus) to conduct a study of resource selection function (RSF) at local scale (i.e. habitat selection of the brown bear in the central Apennines). In this work, I will underlying the differences in sex, season, time of the day and behaviour of the bears to explain the habitat selection modelled with environmental, orographic and anthropogenic predictors. In addition, a part of the study related to bears will be integrated in a larger interdisciplinary and international project called “BearsConnect”. A consortium of six research groups across Europe are part of this project to create a system of ecological network that enable large carnivores to fulfil their vital role in the ecosystem while minimizing conflict with humans.Moreover, the long-term isolation of the Apennine population from other brown bear populations also makes it a unique evolutionary and conservation unit, based on genetic, morphological and perhaps behavioral traits. Recently estimated at about 50 bears, the Apennine bear population is considered critically endangered by the IUCN, both at the European and at the national scale. For these reasons, to complete the research path I will analyze the effects of climate change and human forestry management on the shift of environment features and food’s available resources, to test with different scenarios the risk assessment determining the probability that the brown bear population could extinct within an estimated number of years.

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