Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen

Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen


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Works at Department of Zoology
Telephone 08-16 40 34
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 18 B
Room D 515
Postal address Zoologiska institutionen: Ekologi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

My research interest lie in the field of trophic interactions. I explore both inter- and intratrophic interactions, and I´m particularly interested in interactions that involves predators. I seek to understand how population density is driven by predation, competition, and resource availability.



I explore direct and indirect biotic and abiotic interactions at various spatial and temporal scales, making use of network models to understand complex systems. My research focus a lot on mammal predators, such as red fox, Eurasian lynx and mustelids, but also other vertebrates capture my attention. Land use and climate are changing at a fast rate, and it is therefore important to understand the impact of this change on species abundance and interaction. In the research project "Cascading effects of land use and climate change in farmland communities" I seek to understand what drives predation on ground nesting birds. I use the groundnesting Northern wheatear as a study species for that, and collaborate with Professors Tomas Pärt at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Eric Post at University of California, Davis.

Northern wheatear chicks
Northern wheatear chicks


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2017. Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen (et al.). Journal of Animal Ecology 86 (3), 566-576

    Apex predators may buffer bottom-up driven ecosystem change, as top-down suppression may dampen herbivore and mesopredator responses to increased resource availability. However, theory suggests that for this buffering capacity to be realized, the equilibrium abundance of apex predators must increase. This raises the question: will apex predators maintain herbivore/mesopredator limitation, if bottom-up change relaxes resource constraints? Here, we explore changes in mesopredator (red fox Vulpes vulpes) abundance over 220years in response to eradication and recovery of an apex predator (Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx), and changes in land use and climate which are linked to resource availability. A three-step approach was used. First, recent data from Finland and Sweden were modelled to estimate linear effects of lynx density, land use and winter temperature on fox density. Second, lynx density, land use and winter temperature was estimated in a 22650km(2) focal area in boreal and boreo-nemoral Sweden in the years 1830, 1920, 2010 and 2050. Third, the models and estimates were used to project historic and future fox densities in the focal area. Projected fox density was lowest in 1830 when lynx density was high, winters cold and the proportion of cropland low. Fox density peaked in 1920 due to lynx eradication, a mesopredator release boosted by favourable bottom-up changes - milder winters and cropland expansion. By 2010, lynx recolonization had reduced fox density, but it remained higher than in 1830, partly due to the bottom-up changes. Comparing 1830 to 2010, the contribution of top-down limitation decreased, while environment enrichment relaxed bottom-up limitation. Future scenarios indicated that by 2050, lynx density would have to increase by 79% to compensate for a projected climate-driven increase in fox density. We highlight that although top-down limitation in theory can buffer bottom-up change, this requires compensatory changes in apex predator abundance. Hence apex predator recolonization/recovery to historical levels would not be sufficient to compensate for widespread changes in climate and land use, which have relaxed the resource constraints for many herbivores and mesopredators. Variation in bottom-up conditions may also contribute to context dependence in apex predator effects.

  • 2015. Bodil Elmhagen (et al.). Ecology & society 20 (1)

    Human population growth and resource use, mediated by changes in climate, land use, and water use, increasingly impact biodiversity and ecosystem services provision. However, impacts of these drivers on biodiversity and ecosystem services are rarely analyzed simultaneously and remain largely unknown. An emerging question is how science can improve the understanding of change in biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery and of potential feedback mechanisms of adaptive governance. We analyzed past and future change in drivers in south-central Sweden. We used the analysis to identify main research challenges and outline important research tasks. Since the 19th century, our study area has experienced substantial and interlinked changes; a 1.6 degrees C temperature increase, rapid population growth, urbanization, and massive changes in land use and water use. Considerable future changes are also projected until the mid-21st century. However, little is known about the impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services so far, and this in turn hampers future projections of such effects. Therefore, we urge scientists to explore interdisciplinary approaches designed to investigate change in multiple drivers, underlying mechanisms, and interactions over time, including assessment and analysis of matching-scale data from several disciplines. Such a perspective is needed for science to contribute to adaptive governance by constantly improving the understanding of linked change complexities and their impacts.

  • 2015. Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen, Bodil Elmhagen. Acta Oecologica 67, 40-48

    Trophic downgrading due to loss of apex consumers has been detected in many ecosystems. Loss of larger predators implies that medium-sized mesopredators rise to the status of apex predators which are limited bottom-up rather than top-down. Hence the density of medium-sized predators should be more strongly related to land cover in absence of larger predators. We investigate this hypothesis at a continental scale (Eurasia) for a medium-sized predator, the red fox Vulpes vulpes, in presence and absence of an apex predator, the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx. We predicted that in absence of lynx, fox density should be positively associated with open land covers, as these could favour foxes due to high prey availability. Our results showed that fox abundance was independent of land cover in presence of lynx. However, in absence of lynx, fox density was positively but asymptotically related to cropland, while negatively related to grassland. Fox density was highest when cropland constituted approximately 30% of the landscape, likely reflecting an optimal composition of foraging and breeding habitat. Grassland was associated with low productivity, likely reflecting low prey availability. Thus, cropland is favourable for red fox, but only in absence of top-down limitation by lynx. We suggest that there are two ecosystem states in Eurasia, one northern where lynx is present as an apex predator, and one south-eastern where red fox assumes the apex predator position and its abundance is subsidised by anthropogenic land cover.

  • 2014. Hussein Khalil, Marianne Pasanen Mortensen, Bodil Elmhagen. Oecologia 175 (2), 625-637

    Apex predators play an important role in shaping ecosystem structure. They may suppress smaller predators (mesopredators) but also subsidize scavengers via carrion provisioning. However, the importance of these interactions can change with ecosystem context. The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a cold-adapted carnivore and facultative scavenger. It has a circumboreal distribution, where it could be either suppressed or subsidized by larger predators. In Scandinavia, the wolverine might interact with two larger predators, wolf (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx), but human persecution decimated the populations in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. We investigated potential relationships between wolverine and the larger predators using hunting bag statistics from 15 Norwegian and Swedish counties in 1846-1922. Our best models showed a positive association between wolverine and lynx trends, taking ecological and human factors into account. There was also a positive association between year-to-year fluctuations in wolverine and wolf in the latter part of the study period. We suggest these associations could result from positive lynx-wolverine interactions through carrion provisioning, while wolves might both suppress wolverine and provide carrion with the net effect becoming positive when wolf density drops below a threshold. Wolverines could thus benefit from lynx presence and low-to-intermediate wolf densities.

  • 2014. Bodil Elmhagen, Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen. Lodjuret, 9-29
  • 2013. Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen, Markku Pyykonen, Bodil Elmhagen. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22 (7), 868-877

    Aim Climate change and loss of apex predators can affect ecosystem structure and function through modified limitation processes. We investigated, on a continental scale, whether mesopredator abundance is limited from the top down by large predators, as predicted by the mesopredator release hypothesis, or by bottom-up factors. The mesopredator in focus is the red fox Vulpes vulpes, a key predator in many ecosystems due to its strong effects on prey abundance. Location Europe and northern Asia. Methods Data on red fox density were compiled from published papers and reports. For each site, we collated presence-absence data on large carnivores (Lynx lynx, Canis lupus, Canisaureus) and remote sensing data for factors potentially related to bottom-up limitation (winter severity, summer temperature, human density, primary productivity, tree cover). The data were analysed through structural equation modelling. Results The presence of lynx had a direct negative effect on red foxes, suppressing fox abundance. Also winter severity had a negative effect on red fox abundance, and in Eurasia as a whole this effect was partially mediated through lynx. Within the lynx distribution range, winter severity was the only bottom-up factor significantly affecting red fox abundance. Outside the lynx distribution range, primary productivity, summer temperature and human density had a positive effect on red fox abundance. Main conclusions Our results show that apex predators can limit mesopredator abundance on a continental scale, thus supporting the mesopredator release hypothesis. Winter severity also affected red fox abundance, partially due to an interaction between lynx and winter conditions. On the continental scale a complex network of processes operates with varying effects depending on mediation processes. Our results imply that apex predators can have an important effect on ecosystem structure by limiting mesopredator abundance, and we suggest that apex predators may dampen increases in mesopredator abundance driven by global warming.

Show all publications by Marianne Pasanen-Mortensen at Stockholm University

Last updated: January 11, 2020

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