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Wildlife Ecology Research

The Wildlife Ecology Section undertakes research on wild birds and mammals and is concerned with understanding the relationships between living creatures and their environment. We undertake research and provide advice based on our knowledge of how mammals move over time, the migratory routes undertaken by birds, and our understanding of how humans influence species distribution, abundance and behaviour. The fact that some birds and mammals move across large areas at different stages of their life cycle challenges our ability to study them and develop appropriate management strategies. 

Our core activities include:

  • developing sustainable solutions to protect species in cooperation with other researchers, stakeholder groups, statutory bodies and managers
  • undertaking research on the effects of land use change, industrial development and recreational activities and provide advice on conflict resolution and mitigation
  • Monitoring huntable species, e.g. using  the game bag and wing analyses, as well as protected species, such as breeding birds, waterfowl and bats
  • using telemetry to investigate the movements of birds and mammals in the landscape.

Research areas in brief

Migratory birds

We are responsible for the national monitoring of waterbirds and we undertake research and provide advice on a wide range of migratory bird species both within and outside of Denmark. We undertake an annual assessment of population abundance and identify trends for the various species and investigate, among other things, changes in their migration routes, habitats and feeding ecology (i.e. how much and where they eat, and how they optimise their energy intake to meet their energy demands).


Breeding birds

Denmark is an important breeding area for birds, and our extensive coastal waters, fjords and lagoons provide a unique refuge. We monitor the annual abundance of many breeding populations to track their trends over time. We also develop novel monitoring methods, for example, comparing the efficiency of counting bird colonies through binoculars with photographs from drones. We also work to develop methods to monitor changes in the quality of habitats in the areas where the birds live.


Terrestrial mammals

Wild mammals must coexist with humans. We study how mammals live within and use the contemporary landscape, how populations develop and what key factors affect the distribution and abundance of different species. We use this knowledge to advise managers on how best to protect species and safeguard viable populations of all kinds of animals from bats, hares, stone martens and roe deer to beavers.

Read more about one of our projects here.


Conflict species

We undertake research on species whose abundance or behaviour creates conflicts with human interests. In Denmark, such conflicts include those between fishermen and cormorants (that eat the “fisherman’s fish”), between farmers and red deer, swans, geese and rooks (that cause crop damage) and between city-dwellers and gulls (that have become a nuisance in urban areas). More recently, the return of wolves from Germany (because of livestock depredation) have created conflict with hunters and farmers.

Contact (birds)

Contact (mammals)

Hunting and hunting statistics

In Denmark and throughout the EU, international directives require the sustainability of hunting. The huntable status of all quarry species is regularly evaluated on the basis of the annual number of animals shot in the context of the well-being and size of populations. We undertake research and provide advice on hunting and wildlife management, including how hunting affects bird and mammal populations, as well as their behaviour and habitat exploitation. Our research and advisory work is based on the Danish hunting bag statistics and the Danish Wing Survey. This also covers other aspects of hunting sustainability, including the effectiveness of hunting weapons and ammunition, shooting, release of game and hunting ethics.

Read more at the website Fauna.au.dk.


Adaptive nature management

Adaptive nature management is a particular way of managing nature, which combines the best available knowledge with the values that we collectively recognise as the basis for nature management. Adaptive nature management takes place as a shared learning processes involving the responsible authorities, experts and those who are or will be affected by the management. Adaptive nature management is based on the realisation that nature management is often complicated, plagued by uncertainties and subject to the contrasting needs and understanding of the constituencies involved. Based on delivery of key management projects, the Centre for Adaptive Nature Management develops knowledge and experience to make it easier to understand how to improve the future management of habitats and species in collaboration with the key humans involved.

Read more at can.au.dk


Human influences including climate

We study how human activities impact on wild bird and mammal populations and to understand how minimise them. We assess the effects of disturbances from hunting or sailing, effects from the construction of roads and wind turbines and the adverse impacts of environmental hazardous substances and pesticides on organisms and populations. Increasingly, a new focus of research is on impacts (positive and adverse) of climate change on the habitat use, distribution and abundance of animal populations.

Contact (birds)

Contact (mammals)

Social perspectives

All human interaction with nature always place in a social, cultural and political context. In order to resolve the challenges and conflicts arising from such interactions, it is necessary to understand these social, cultural and political perspectives. This applies as much to the ‘major’ challenges such those posed to sustainability, biodiversity conservation and by climate change, as to the very specific conflicts such as those posed by wolves and red deer. We therefore explore the societal aspects of nature management, not only at national and international level, but also at local level, to create a new understanding and develop new solutions.

Read about project "Wolf dialogue"


Avian and Animal Communication

Birds and bats use sounds in their communication with fellow members of their species or to localise prey and navigate. We use sounds to record birds and bats. The sounds make it possible to localise individuals, and we develop automated methods for localization. In this way, we can follow the individuals ' use of their habitat and their position in relation to members of the same species. We use acoustics to monitor and identify bats and conduct research into their use of the landscape and their interaction with infrastructures. We also conduct research into the effects of anthropogenic noise and the function and evolution of birdsong and parrot communication.

Contact (birds)

Contact (bats)