Predator Recovery in a Novel Ecosystem
Following the European colonization of Argentina, the population of both guanacos and pumas declined due to conflict with livestock production. The absence of pumas likely triggered the rapid expansion of Magellanic penguin colonies along the Argentine coastline. Today, pumas are returning to Patagonia due to a decline in sheep ranching and ongoing rewilding efforts, which has led to a novel predator-prey relationship between pumas and penguins. It's unclear how this migratory penguin colony affects the predator-prey relationship between pumas and guanacos, community interactions, and ultimately how this novel, alternative prey shapes the restoration of coastal Patagonia.
Socio-ecological Dynamics of Wildlife Recovery
The recovery of the puma population throughout Patagonia has triggered growing and widespread conflict over livestock. In addition, while the puma population has recovered, their native prey have recovered to a lesser extent, potentially increasing the conflict over livestock. Monte León National Park represents one of the few areas in Patagonia with both a large population of pumas and guanacos. The park, however, is also surrounded by several large-scale sheep ranching operations. We are working to uncover the drivers of human-wildlife conflict in the region, the role of protected areas within mixed-use landscapes, and strategies to promote human-wildlife coexistence.
Connecting Marine and Terrestrial Conservation
The transfer of nutrients and energy between marine and terrestrial ecosystems is common in nature. However, management decisions are typically structured around isolated terrestrial or marine ecosystems, even while impacts in one ecosystem may have indirect effects in another. Our work seeks to better understand the indirect consequences of predator recovery on breeding penguin colonies in Argentina (an important ecotourism attraction), the terrestrial carnivore community, and the resulting impacts on the fisheries that penguins prey upon along the Patagonian Shelf.