Linking Behavior to Vital Rates to Measure the Effects of Non-Lethal Disturbance on Wildlife

Fredrik Christiansen, David Lusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


The need for managing non-lethal effects on wildlife is becoming increasingly important as global human–wildlife interactions are now more frequent and more diverse. We developed a mechanistic model for minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) to measure the effects of behavioral disturbances caused by whalewatching activities on fetal growth. The model illustrates the pathway through which behaviorally mediated effects of anthropogenic disturbance might influence female reproductive success in an iteroparous capital breeding mammal. We found that although the behavioral disruptions caused by whalewatching interactions were substantial, the cumulative exposure of individuals to whalewatching boats was low, resulting in an effect on fetal growth no different from natural variability. This highlights the importance of considering all aspects of disturbance when evaluating effects of human disturbance on wildlife. Our mechanistic model can also be used to simulate different management scenarios to predict the long-term consequence of disturbance on vital rates, to help inform management decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-431
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number6
Early online date27 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding was received from the University of Aberdeen,Graduate School Competitive Studentship grant scheme and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland pooling initiative. We are grateful for the constructive comments provided by Dr Amanda Lombard and two anonymous reviewers


  • anthropogenic disturbance
  • bioenergetics
  • cetacean
  • exposure
  • minke whale
  • non-consumptive effects
  • population consequences of disturbance
  • whalewatching


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