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From SOcial Foraging To POpulation Processes: an integrated appproach to population dynamics – SOFTPOP

Submission summary

This project focuses on how individual behavioural processes build up to population-scale processes. In that context we will particularly consider the impact of social foraging on the ability of obligate scavengers such as vultures to respond to resource spatio-temporal availability and thus on their population dynamics. Our main study case is the Causses vulture populations (griffon and black vulture). The research on vultures foraging strategies is rare because they are less amenable to experimentation and it demands a much higher field effort. To surpass these limitations, we aim to combine two distinct approaches, intensive radio-tracking by GPS and simulation modelling. The modelling approach that will be used combines diverse types of model: multi-agent models, demo-genetic models and behavioural based population. The multi-agent simulation (MAS) model of behaviour allows us to examine the effects of individual actions both upon its search efficiency and upon the emergent behaviour at the level of the population. This will allow us to generate scenarios and predictions according to our basic knowledge on social foraging and will be dedicated to the vulture study case as well as to generic processes. The impact of individual relatedness on social foraging will be explored through a demo-genetic version of the MAS model that will specifically take into account these factors. These models will assist the design of the GPS monitoring, by allowing us to select the key variables to mesure to assess social foraging strategies, and also in terms of choice of individuals to mark and of data collection routines. Model outputs will then be compared with field data collected through accurate GPS monitoring of foraging birds. By these combined approaches, we anticipate to get a better understanding of social foraging strategies in various scenarios of resource spatio-temporal availability. The outputs from the MAS models will be integrated in the construction and parameterisation of a behavioural population model, together with demographic and genetic data already available. By explicitly integrating the selective value of individual strategies, behavioural population models are hypothesised to help predict population response to novel, human- originated conditions. This should help us to project expansion, regulation or decline of populations. In this regard, our focus on expanding reintroduced populations that offer an opportunity to uncover the processes driving spatial variation in distribution and abundance. Moreover, reintroduced populations constitute unique opportunities for large scales experiments in population biology allowing studying whole population dynamics from settlement to regulation. In parallel, we will explore the generalisation of our results and particularly of our behavioural population models to other model systems. Work pertaining complementary model systems largely relies on the organisation of modelling workshops with our external partners. Finally, such knowledge will be integrated to the management of endangered social species.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 400,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months

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