Linking behaviour to dynamics of populations and communities: Application of novel approaches in behavioural ecology to conservation

Jakob Bro-Jørgensen*, Daniel W. Franks, Kristine Meise

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The impact of environmental change on the reproduction and survival of wildlife is often behaviourally mediated, placing behavioural ecology in a central position to quantify population- and community-level consequences of anthropogenic threats to biodiversity. This theme issue demonstrates how recent conceptual and methodological advances in the discipline are applied to inform conservation. The issue highlights how the focus in behavioural ecology on understanding variation in behaviour between individuals, rather than just measuring the population mean, is critical to explaining demographic stochasticity and thereby reducing fuzziness of population models. The contributions also show the importance of knowing the mechanisms by which behaviour is achieved, i.e. the role of learning, reasoning and instincts, in order to understand how behaviours change in human-modified environments, where their function is less likely to be adaptive. More recent work has thus abandoned the 'adaptationist' paradigm of early behavioural ecology and increasingly measures evolutionary processes directly by quantifying selection gradients and phenotypic plasticity. To support quantitative predictions at the population and community levels, a rich arsenal of modelling techniques has developed, and interdisciplinary approaches show promising prospects for predicting the effectiveness of alternative management options, with the social sciences, movement ecology and epidemiology particularly pertinent. The theme issue furthermore explores the relevance of behaviour for global threat assessment, and practical advice is given as to how behavioural ecologists can augment their conservation impact by carefully selecting and promoting their study systems, and increasing their engagement with local communities, natural resource managers and policy-makers. Its aim to uncover the nuts and bolts of how natural systems work positions behavioural ecology squarely in the heart of conservation biology, where its perspective offers an all-important complement to more descriptive 'big-picture' approaches to priority setting. This article is part of the theme issue 'Linking behaviour to dynamics of populations and communities: application of novel approaches in behavioural ecology to conservation'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20190008
Number of pages7
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1781
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 The Author(s)


  • Animal behaviour
  • Applied ecology
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • IUCN red list
  • Natural resource management
  • Social network analysis

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