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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2018

Authors: Desvars-Larrive, A; Baldi, M; Walter, T; Zink, R; Walzer, C

Title: Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) in urban ecosystems: are the constraints related to fieldwork a limit to their study?.

Source: Urban Ecosystems 21(5): 951-964.

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Baldi Mario
Desvars Amelie
Walter Theresa
Walzer Christian
Zink Richard

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, Conservation Medicine
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology

Nowadays, the majority of human beings live in urban ecosystems, with this proportion expected to continue increasing in the future. With the growing importance of urban rat-associated issues (e.g. damages to urban infrastructures, costs of rat-control programs, rat-associated health risks), it is becoming indispensable to fill the identified gaps in knowledge on the urban brown rat regarding, among others, its density, home range, genetic structure, and infectious status. In this context, live-trapping is a crucial prerequisite to any scientific investigation. This paper assesses the main constraints and challenges regarding the urban field and describes the major steps to be considered when planning research on urban rats. The primary challenges are i) the characterization of the urban experimental unit; ii) the choice of a trapping design: the use of live-trapping in capture-mark-recapture design, in association with modern statistics, is highly recommended to answer ecological questions (although these methods, mostly developed in natural ecosystems, need to be implemented for the urban field); iii) the potential ethical considerations with regard to animal welfare and field-worker safety; iv) the building of mutually-beneficial collaborations with city stakeholders, pest control professionals, and citizens. Emphasis must be put on communication to the public and education of field-workers. One major need of modern urban rat research is a peer-validated field methodology allowing reproducibility, repeatability, and inference from urban field studies and enabling researchers to answer long-standing key questions about urban rat ecology.

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