Hunting and game management
We are interested in small game species, such as red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa), turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur) and Eurasian woodcocks (Scolopax rusticola), with the aim to develop sustainable management system of these natural resources according to scientific knowledge. We study their spatial and temporal abundances, the factors that effect on their population dynamic and the influence of hunting pressure, as well as the consequence of different game management tools (e.g. habitat management, predator control, …) have on their populations. We also investigate on the social and economic context of the involved sectors in the hunting of these species. We are interested in assessing the opinions and attitudes that hunters have on these species, their management and their hunting regulation.
We currently work in a contract with the European Comission for the development of an adaptive harvest mechanism for the hunting of European Turtle Dove”.
Relationship between human activities and wildlife.
We are interested in assessing the effect of human activities such as farming or hunting on protected birds (such as raptors or steppe-birds), and evaluating the farming of game management systems that are more compatible with biodiversity conservation. Projects in this line include the evaluation of High Nature Value Farmland Areas in Spain; assessing the relationship between land use changes, occurrence of vole outbreaks in Castilla y León, and the ecosystem effects of management those for reducing crop damages; modeling the impacts on steppe-birds of different future agronomic scenarios; assessing the impact of management for small game on farmland birds; or designing science-based strategies for sustainable woodcock hunting.
We have also studied the role that vole outbreaks play in the ecological epidemiology of tularemia, a zoonotic disease endemic to NW Spain, and the transmission routes of the disease to humans in order to improve prevention. Finally, in the last decade, we have studied the sublethal effects of pesticide and nitrate exposure in farmland birds (and on the red-legged partridge in particular).
In many cases, development of those human activities comes into conflict with the conservation of biodiversity or the environment. The sustainable management of natural resources needs to include the understanding of drivers of these conflicts, and the management and resolution of those conflicts. The latter needs not only a profound knowledge of the ecology of the species or systems involved, but also of the socio-economic factors affecting them. We develop multidisciplinary research to integrate all those aspects, with the aim to identify acceptable solutions that allow harmonizing the economic development with environmental conservation. Some projects in this line include the assessment of integrated management as a solution for conflicts related to vole outbreaks in farmland; or conflicts between farmers, conservationists and hunters regarding the management of the European rabbit in the Iberian Peninsula, where it is simultaneously considered a key ecological species and a farmland pest.
Causes and consequences of management decisions.
Ultimately, whether results from applied ecological research studies are translated into better practice, management or policies does not just depend on the quality of those studies. The management of natural resources is driven by the interactions between the natural system, and the behavior of the stakeholders (which guide both the decision-making process and the compliance to those decisions). We are thus increasingly interested in the study of factors influencing the decision-making process in managers, how attitudes and beliefs influence behavior or compliance, or the value of science versus other sources of information to inform management decisions.
Ecology and conservation of raptors.
We are interested by raptors as protected predators on the top of the food chain. We research on predator-prey relationships; the relationship between habitat, food abundance and conservation of vulnerable species; the effect of human disturbance on these emblematic species;or the relationship between behavior, ecology and population changes. Harriers are a traditional study model, with projects on the ecology and conservation of pallid harriers (Circus macrourus) or black harrier (Circus maurus), or the relationship between human activities Circus pygargus), including the evaluation of the cost-efficiency of conservation measures to protect nests during cereal harvest or long-term conservation strategies for this species. We also work on population dynamics and assessment of the impact of conservation management on protected species like Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). In recent years, we have also reserched on the link between the appearance of regional vole outbreaks and the arrival of new breeding raptors in Spain: the short-eared owls (Asio flameus) and pallid harrier, studying the movements of these raptors using remote tracking.