Emergent conservation outcomes of shared risk perception in human‐wildlife systems


Human perception of risks related to economic damages caused by nearby wildlife can be transmitted through social networks. Understanding how sharing risk information within a human community alters the spatial dynamics of human-wildlife interactions has important implications for the design and implementation of effective conservation actions. We developed an agent-based model that simulates farmer livelihood decisions and activities in an agricultural landscape shared with a population of a generic wildlife species (wildlife-human interactions in shared landscapes [WHISL]). In the model, based on risk perception and economic information, farmers decide how much labor to allocate to farming and whether and where to exclude wildlife from their farms (e.g., through fencing, trenches, or vegetation thinning). In scenarios where the risk perception of farmers was strongly influenced by other farmers, exclusion of wildlife was widespread, resulting in decreased quality of wildlife habitat and frequency of wildlife damages across the landscape. When economic losses from encounters with wildlife were high, perception of risk increased and led to highly synchronous behaviors by farmers in space and time. Interactions between wildlife and farmers sometimes led to a spillover effect of wildlife damage displaced from socially and spatially connected communities to less connected neighboring farms. The WHISL model is a useful conservation-planning tool because it provides a test bed for theories and predictions about human-wildlife dynamics across a range of different agricultural landscapes.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Conservation Biology