Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-03072021-212617

Thesis type
Tesi di laurea magistrale
Thesis title
Factors affecting wolf (Canis lupus L.) occupancy and locomotory activity patterns in a newly recolonized mountainous area: the Apuan Alps, Italy.
Course of study
relatore Prof. Massolo, Alessandro
relatore Prof. Rovero, Francesco
  • wolf
  • top-down
  • recolonization
  • occupancy
  • activity
  • diet
Graduation session start date
Release date
Top predators may exert top-down effects on other species, which possibly propagate to other components of the ecosystems. Their most evident effect realizes in predator-prey interactions, in which use of space and time are fundamental. However, we still do not have a comprehensive knowledge of their roles, especially in human-dominated ecosystems, where Homo sapiens pervasive effects could alter and even exceed other species effects. The interest in top predators’ roles has increased in the last decades, since many large carnivores are facing risks of extinction and it was realized that their effects could be more easily understood in perturbated ecosystems (i.e., situations in which species expand, are lost or recover). We investigated, by means of summer-autumn camera trapping, wolf (Canis lupus L.) occupancy and locomotory activity patterns in the Apuan Alps Regional Park (Italy), a protected area set in a highly anthropized context and recently recolonized by the predator. Our objective was to understand wolf use of space and time, and hopefully shed light on its possible top-down effects on ungulate prey, also considering the effects of human disturbance on its occurrence. Then, we evaluated if the observed patterns were consistent with prey use as derived by diet analysis. Wolf use of space was mainly positively associated to the presence of flat areas frequented by both wild boar and roe deer, and to high trail density and negatively to areas with highly variable terrain. Wolf locomotory activity matched the one of the wild boar and seemed to avoid peaks of human activity, although the avoidance was similar in areas with between areas with different levels of human presence in terms of detection rate in cameras. Our results about wolf use of space and time were generally consistent with the diet analysis data, and with the results of other studies from the nearby Apennines. However, diet analysis highlighted a limitation of our camera trapping approach, because despite their scarce detection rate (0.003), goats resulted as the second most used prey. In conclusion, our study provided an interesting insight on wolf occurrence and its determinants, and on the principal spatiotemporal interactions of the predator with its prey and humans. Our data represents a solid baseline for further studies regarding predators and prey connections in this area, and stress the importance of implementing multiple methods to deal with complex systems and dynamics. Finally, our results can be used the park managers to better direct future conservation and management actions.