Changing organisms in rapidly changing anthropogenic landscapes: the significance of the ‘Umwelt’-concept and functional habitat for animal conservation
Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Special Issue: The evolutionary basis of biodiversity and its potential for adaptation to global change
Volume 5, Issue 2, pages 144–153, February 2012
How to Cite
Van Dyck, H. (2012), Changing organisms in rapidly changing anthropogenic landscapes: the significance of the ‘Umwelt’-concept and functional habitat for animal conservation. Evolutionary Applications, 5: 144–153. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2011.00230.x
- Issue published online: 29 FEB 2012
- Article first published online: 16 DEC 2011
- Received: 31 October 2011 Accepted: 17 November 2011 First published online: 16 December 2011
- animal behaviour;
- conservation biology;
- habitat concept;
- niche construction;
- niche evolution;
There is a growing recognition for the significance of evolutionary thinking in ecology and conservation biology. However, ecology and conservation studies often work with species-specific, fixed traits that ignore intraspecific variation. The way the habitat of a species is considered is an example of typological thinking biased by human perception. Structural habitat units (e.g., land cover types) as perceived by humans may not represent functional habitat units for other organisms. Human activity may also interfere with the environmental information used by organisms. Therefore, the Umwelt-concept from ethology needs to be integrated in the way we think about habitat and habitat selection. It states that different organisms live in different perceptual worlds dealing with specific subsamples of the environment as a result of their evolutionary and developmental history. The resource-based habitat concept is a functional habitat model based on resource distributions (consumables and conditions) and individual movements. This behavioural approach takes into account aspects that relate to the perceptual world of organisms. This approach may offer new opportunities for conservation and may help avoid failures with habitat restoration. Perceptual ability may be subject to adaptive change, but it may also constrain organisms from showing adaptive behaviours in rapidly changing environments.