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Foraging ecology of three sympatric ungulate species – behavioural and resource maps indicate differences between chamois, ibex and red deer


Schweiger, Anna K; Schütz, Martin; Anderwald, Pia; Schaepman, Michael E; Kneubühler, Mathias; Haller, Rudolf; Risch, Anita C (2015). Foraging ecology of three sympatric ungulate species – behavioural and resource maps indicate differences between chamois, ibex and red deer. Movement Ecology, 3:6.

Abstract

Background: The spatial distribution of forage resources is a major driver of animal movement patterns. Understanding where animals forage is important for the conservation of multi-species communities, since interspecific competition can emerge if different species use the same depletable resources. However, determining forage resources in a spatially continuous fashion in alpine grasslands at high spatial resolution was challenging up to now, because terrain heterogeneity causes vegetation characteristics to vary at small spatial scales, and methods for detection of behavioural phases in animal movement patterns were not widely available. We delineated areas coupled to the foraging behaviour of three sympatric ungulate species (chamois, ibex, red deer) using Time Local Convex Hull (T-LoCoH), a non-parametric utilisation distribution method incorporating spatial and temporal autocorrelation structure of GPS data. We used resource maps of plant biomass and plant nitrogen content derived from high-resolution airborne imaging spectroscopy data, and multinomial logistic regression to compare the foraging areas of the three ungulate species.
Results: We found significant differences in plant biomass and plant nitrogen content between the core foraging areas of chamois, ibex and red deer. Core foraging areas of chamois were characterised by low plant biomass and low to medium plant nitrogen content. Core foraging areas of ibex were, in contrast, characterised by high plant nitrogen content, but varied in plant biomass, and core foraging areas of red deer had high plant biomass, but varied in plant nitrogen content.
Conclusions: Previous studies carried out in the same study area found no difference in forage consumed by chamois, ibex and red deer. Methodologically, those studies were based on micro-histological analysis of plant fragments identifying them to plant family or functional type level. However, vegetation properties such as productivity (biomass) or plant nutrient content can vary within vegetation communities, especially in highly heterogeneous landscapes. Thus, the combination of high spatial resolution resource maps with a utilisation distribution method allowing to generate behavioural maps (T-LoCoH) provides new insights into the foraging ecology of the three sympatric species, important for their conservation and to monitor expected future changes.

Background: The spatial distribution of forage resources is a major driver of animal movement patterns. Understanding where animals forage is important for the conservation of multi-species communities, since interspecific competition can emerge if different species use the same depletable resources. However, determining forage resources in a spatially continuous fashion in alpine grasslands at high spatial resolution was challenging up to now, because terrain heterogeneity causes vegetation characteristics to vary at small spatial scales, and methods for detection of behavioural phases in animal movement patterns were not widely available. We delineated areas coupled to the foraging behaviour of three sympatric ungulate species (chamois, ibex, red deer) using Time Local Convex Hull (T-LoCoH), a non-parametric utilisation distribution method incorporating spatial and temporal autocorrelation structure of GPS data. We used resource maps of plant biomass and plant nitrogen content derived from high-resolution airborne imaging spectroscopy data, and multinomial logistic regression to compare the foraging areas of the three ungulate species.
Results: We found significant differences in plant biomass and plant nitrogen content between the core foraging areas of chamois, ibex and red deer. Core foraging areas of chamois were characterised by low plant biomass and low to medium plant nitrogen content. Core foraging areas of ibex were, in contrast, characterised by high plant nitrogen content, but varied in plant biomass, and core foraging areas of red deer had high plant biomass, but varied in plant nitrogen content.
Conclusions: Previous studies carried out in the same study area found no difference in forage consumed by chamois, ibex and red deer. Methodologically, those studies were based on micro-histological analysis of plant fragments identifying them to plant family or functional type level. However, vegetation properties such as productivity (biomass) or plant nutrient content can vary within vegetation communities, especially in highly heterogeneous landscapes. Thus, the combination of high spatial resolution resource maps with a utilisation distribution method allowing to generate behavioural maps (T-LoCoH) provides new insights into the foraging ecology of the three sympatric species, important for their conservation and to monitor expected future changes.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:15 Apr 2015 12:42
Last Modified:13 Sep 2016 10:43
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:2051-3933
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-015-0033-x
PubMed ID:26807258
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-110266

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