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Impact of land use changes on the frequency of human-wildlife conflict in the Polish Carpathians


Project title:

Impact of land use changes on the frequency of human-wildlife conflict in the Polish Carpathians



Europe undergoes dynamic land use changes. On one hand, land use changes in Europe result from settlement development, while on the other hand, the process of land abandonment leading to secondary forest succession and forest expansion can be observed, especially in European mountain areas. These two processes lead to the spread of the contact zone located between the human-dominated landscape and mostly forested natural areas, referred to as the Wildland-Urban Interface – WUI. Recently researchers indicated that WUI areas are prone to human-wildlife conflict. One of the regions in Europe, where we can observe dynamic land use changes and at the same time, where the recovery of large carnivores can be observed is the Polish Carpathians. Although a lot of research indicates the directions of recent land changes in the region, little is known about the impact the changes had and have on WUI creation and its dynamics. This project aims therefore at explaining how land use changes in the Polish Carpathians have shaped WUI dynamics and whether WUI influences the frequency of human-wildlife conflicts in the study area. Specifically, the project will answer the following research questions:

[1] What explained the spatial pattern of WUI in the past and explain it currently and how strong is a legacy effect in WUI existence over time?

[2] Do the human-wildlife conflicts in the Carpathians happen more likely in WUI than in other areas?

To answer the first research question [1], detailed WUI maps will be produced for the whole territory of the Polish Carpathians for two periods – for the contemporary period and for the mid-19th century, the time, when the forest cover in many areas in the region was at its minimum. The method of WUI mapping will be based on a definition, where building density, forest proportion and forest patch sizes are taken into account. The occurrence of WUI will be analysed using a set of methods including exploratory regression analysis aiming at best subset selection and geographically weighted regression, accounting for the spatial character of the phenomenon. The drivers will be defined by a number of socio-economic, environmental and accessibility variables, to find its major spatial determinants. Although much of the research on WUI is done globally, little is known of WUI persistence over time, as most of the analyses are either not dynamic or cover less than the last 30 years, due to lack of reliable historical cartographic sources for many regions and time-consuming process of data acquisition. This is why long-term WUI development is so far poorly understood. Therefore, apart from the mid-19th century and contemporary WUI, for five selected test sites, the maps of 1970s WUI will be produced. The 19th century and 1970s WUI maps will help to define how strong is long-term (since the 19th century) and short-term (since 1970s) legacy effect of WUI existence in the regions with similar environmental conditions, but different land use history? In order to answer the second research question [2] the project will analyse the occurrence of damages done by three protected species of large carnivores living in the Carpathians – a brown bear, wolf and lynx.

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The project is supported by the National Science Centre, Poland, contract no. UMO-2019/35/D/HS4/00117