Impact of unintentional selective harvesting on the population dynamics of red grouse.
1. The effect of selective exploitation of certain age, stage or sex classes (e.g., trophy hunting) on population dynamics is relatively well studied in fisheries and sexually dimorphic mammals.
2. Harvesting of terrestrial species with no morphological differences visible between the different age and sex classes (monomorphic species) is usually assumed to be non-selective because monomorphicity makes intentionally selective harvesting pointless and impractical. But harvesting of the red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus), a monomorphic species, was recently shown to be unintentionally selective. This study uses a sex- and age-specific model to explore the previously unresearched effects of unintentional harvesting selectivity.
3. We examine the effects of selectivity on red grouse dynamics by considering models with and without selectivity. Our models include territoriality and parasitism, two mechanisms known to be important for grouse dynamics.
4. We show that the unintentional selectivity of harvesting that occurs in red grouse decreases population yield compared with unselective harvesting at high harvest rates. Selectivity also dramatically increases extinction risk at high harvest rates.
5. Selective harvesting strengthens the 3- to 13-year red grouse population cycle, suggesting that the selectivity of harvesting is a previously unappreciated factor contributing to the cycle.
6. The additional extinction risk introduced by harvesting selectivity provides a quantitative justification for typically implemented 20-40% harvest rates, which are below the maximum sustainable yield that could be taken, given the observed population growth rates of red grouse.
7. This study shows the possible broad importance of investigating in future research whether unintentionally selective harvesting occurs on other species.