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Density and habitat use of lions and spotted hyenas in northern Botswana and the influence of survey and ecological variables on call-in survey estimation


Cozzi, G; Broekhuis, F; McNutt, J W; Schmid, B (2013). Density and habitat use of lions and spotted hyenas in northern Botswana and the influence of survey and ecological variables on call-in survey estimation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 22(12):2937-2956.

Abstract

Top predators significantly impact ecosystem dynamics and act as important indicator species for ecosystem health. However, reliable density estimates for top predators, considered necessary for the development of management plans and ecosystem monitoring, are challenging to obtain. This study aims to establish baseline density estimates for two top predators, spotted hyena and lion, in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Using calling stations, we surveyed free-ranging populations of the two species and investigated methodological variables that might influence results about distributions and densities, including habitat type, seasonality, and different types of playback sounds. Calling stations were distributed over a survey area of approximately 1,800 km2 characterized by three major habitat types: mopane woodland, floodplain and mixed acacia sandveld. Results indicate spotted hyenas were evenly distributed independent of habitat type and season throughout the survey area with an overall density estimate of 14.4 adults/100 km2. In contrast, lion distribution and density varied significantly with habitat and season. Lion density in the prey-poor mopane woodland was near zero, while in the comparatively prey-rich floodplains it was estimated at 23.1 individuals/100 km2 resulting in a weighted average density of 5.8 individuals/100 km2 across the entire study area. In testing the effect of varying playback sounds we found that both species were significantly more likely to respond to calls of conspecifics. Our results show how several methodological variables may influence density estimates and emphasize the importance of standardized calling-station survey methods to allow consistent replication of surveys and comparison of results that can be used for landscape-scale monitoring of large predator species.

Abstract

Top predators significantly impact ecosystem dynamics and act as important indicator species for ecosystem health. However, reliable density estimates for top predators, considered necessary for the development of management plans and ecosystem monitoring, are challenging to obtain. This study aims to establish baseline density estimates for two top predators, spotted hyena and lion, in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. Using calling stations, we surveyed free-ranging populations of the two species and investigated methodological variables that might influence results about distributions and densities, including habitat type, seasonality, and different types of playback sounds. Calling stations were distributed over a survey area of approximately 1,800 km2 characterized by three major habitat types: mopane woodland, floodplain and mixed acacia sandveld. Results indicate spotted hyenas were evenly distributed independent of habitat type and season throughout the survey area with an overall density estimate of 14.4 adults/100 km2. In contrast, lion distribution and density varied significantly with habitat and season. Lion density in the prey-poor mopane woodland was near zero, while in the comparatively prey-rich floodplains it was estimated at 23.1 individuals/100 km2 resulting in a weighted average density of 5.8 individuals/100 km2 across the entire study area. In testing the effect of varying playback sounds we found that both species were significantly more likely to respond to calls of conspecifics. Our results show how several methodological variables may influence density estimates and emphasize the importance of standardized calling-station survey methods to allow consistent replication of surveys and comparison of results that can be used for landscape-scale monitoring of large predator species.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Calling-station, Crocuta crocuta, Density estimate, Habitat use, Panthera leo, Playback sounds
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:09 Jul 2014 15:36
Last Modified:21 Nov 2017 17:24
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0960-3115
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-013-0564-7

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