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Under cover of the night: context-dependency of anthropogenic disturbance on stress levels of wild roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Abstract : Wildlife populations are increasingly exposed to human-induced modifications of their habitats. To cope with anthropogenic stressors, animals can adjust their behaviour—for example, by shifting their activity to more sheltered habitats, or becoming more nocturnal.However, whether use of spatial and temporal adjustments in behaviourmay regulate the endocrine response is poorly documented. Here, we analyzed faecal cortisol metabolites (FCMs) of wild roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) living in a human-dominated agro-ecosystem. Using Global Positioning Systemmonitoring of 116 individuals, we assessed their spatial behaviour and tested whether proximity to anthropogenic structures (linear distance to built-up areas) and the use of refuge habitats (woodland and hedges) influenced FCM levels. In accordance with our predictions, individuals ranging closer to anthropogenic structures during daytime had higher FCM levels, but this relationship was buffered as use of refuge habitat increased. In addition, this link between proximity to anthropogenic structures andFCMlevels disappeared whenwe analyzed spatial behaviour at night. Finally, FCM levels were higher when the ambient temperature was lower, and during years of low resource availability. Our results demonstrate that the stress levels of large mammals may be strongly influenced by their proximity to anthropogenic activities, but that these effects may be buffered by behavioural adjustments in terms of space use and circadian rhythm.Whereas most studies have focused on the influence of environmental heterogeneity, our analysis highlights the need to also consider the fine-scale spatial response of individuals when studying the hormonal response of wild animals to human disturbance. We emphasize the potential to mitigate this hormonal stress response, and its potential negative consequences on population dynamics, through the preservation or restoration of patches of refuge habitat in close proximity to human infrastructure.
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Contributor : Nathalie Seguin <>
Submitted on : Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 10:44:08 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, June 16, 2021 - 6:22:03 PM

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Jeffrey Carbillet, Benjamin Rey, Rupert Palme, Nicolas Morellet, Nadège Bonnot, et al.. Under cover of the night: context-dependency of anthropogenic disturbance on stress levels of wild roe deer Capreolus capreolus. Conservation Physiology, Oxford University Press, 2020, 8 (1), ⟨10.1093/conphys/coaa086⟩. ⟨hal-02989452⟩

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