Environmental impact assessment for large carnivores: a methodological review of the wolf Canis lupus monitoring in Portugal

Gonçalo Ferrão da Costa, Miguel Mascarenhas, Carlos Fonseca, Chris Sutherland

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Abstract

The continuous growth of the global human population results in increased use and change of landscapes, with infrastructures like transportation or energy facilities being a particular risk to large carnivores. Environmental impact assessments were established to identify the probable environmental consequences of any new proposed project, find ways to reduce impacts, and provide evidence to inform decision making and mitigation. Portugal has a wolf population of approximately 300 individuals, designated as an endangered species with full legal protection. They occupy the northern mountainous areas of the country which has also been the focus of new human infrastructures over the last 20 years. Consequently, dozens of wolf monitoring programs have been established to evaluate wolf population status, to identify impacts, and to inform appropriate mitigation or compensation measures. We reviewed Portuguese wolf monitoring programs to answer four key questions. Do wolf programs examine adequate biological parameters to meet monitoring objectives? Is the study design suitable for measuring impacts? Are data collection methods and effort sufficient for the stated inference objectives? Do statistical analyses of the data lead to robust conclusions? Overall, we found a mismatch between the stated aims of wolf monitoring and the results reported, and often neither aligns with the existing national wolf monitoring guidelines. Despite the vast effort expended and the diversity of methods used, data analysis makes almost exclusive use of relative indices or summary statistics, with little consideration of the potential biases that arise through the (imperfect) observational process. This makes comparisons of impacts across space and time difficult and is therefore unlikely to contribute to a general understanding of wolf responses to infrastructure-related disturbance. We recommend the development of standardized monitoring protocols and advocate for the use of statistical methods that account for imperfect detection to guarantee accuracy, reproducibility, and efficacy of the programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01230
Number of pages16
JournalWildlife Biology
VolumeEarly View
Early online date18 Jun 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2024

Keywords

  • EIA
  • Human infrastructures
  • Imperfect detection
  • Monitoring
  • Wolves

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