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Reconciling lethal control of an iconic native species (red deer Cervus elaphus) with nature conservation within a multiple-use landscape

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, January 06, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The sustainable use of renewable natural resources, including wildlife populations, is becoming more challenging as the human population grows (White & Ward 2011). Human-wildlife conflicts are, by their nature, conflicts between people holding different perspectives on and values for wildlife (Dickman & Hazzah 2016). Resolution of these conflicts can be challenging where neighbours with differing perspectives interact with a wildlife population whose range encompasses multiple properties (White & Ward 2011; Davies & White 2012).

Such a situation has emerged in the Northern Lake District of England, where an iconic population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) ranges freely across major land holdings owned by the National Trust and United Utilities, and also across smaller farms and other privately-held land. The red deer population is considered iconic because it is genetically relatively ‘pure’ with very limited evidence of introgression with non-native deer of the Cervus genus in comparison with many Scottish populations (Smith et al. 2018). However, the population is likely to have significant impacts on a range of anthropocentric interests, resulting in economic costs, including losses to agricultural productivity, forestry, conservation woodland status and ecological community simplification and hence reductions in ecosystem functioning and services (Putman & Moore 1998). Hence the major landowners within the deer population’s range engage in annual culling to control population size. In contrast, it is likely that some local landowners gain positive benefits from the presence of red deer; some may run fee-paying stalking (hunting) or wildlife tourism enterprises, some may accrue subsidiary benefits from these, such as hoteliers and outfitters, other stakeholders may value the chance to see and/or photograph them, and others may simply value the knowledge that native red deer still live wild in English landscapes (White et al. 2004). People within these groups may object to the population control imposed by the major landowners, or may wish to influence the way in which control is imposed.

How then can the societal benefits of this iconic deer population be maximised? How should they be managed to yield the greatest benefit across groups of stakeholders? Researchers have sought to develop tools to collect, collate and present information to assist with the decision-making process (e.g. Irvine et al. 2009), and to evaluate drivers underpinning collaborative governance of natural resources (Davies & White 2012), but mechanisms for promoting collaboration, including the full range of information that is required by stakeholders, its relative importance for decision-making and the adaptive implementation of a management programme for a complex, multi-stakeholder landscape-wildlife system such as deer in the Lake District, has yet to be consolidated in a practical way that can be adopted by stakeholders.

Funding Notes

Eligible for funding under the NERC Panorama DTP (stipend and UK/EU fees for 3.5 years)

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1) Contact the supervisor of your chosen project to register your interest. Please note that you can only apply for 1 project within the DTP.

2) Apply online - View Website

The programme code is ‘NERC PANORAMA DTP’. Section 10 request information about the research area - you should input the title of the project that you wish to be considered for and the supervisors’ names.

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