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Resource partitioning between ungulate populations in arid environments

Resource partitioning between ungulate populations in arid environments
Resource partitioning between ungulate populations in arid environments
Herbivores are major drivers of ecosystem structure, diversity, and function. Resilient ecosystems therefore require viable herbivore populations in a sustainable balance with environmental resource availability. This balance is becoming harder to achieve, with increasingly threatened species reliant on small protected areas in increasingly harsh and unpredictable environments. Arid environments in North Africa exemplify this situation, featuring a biologically distinct species assemblage exposed to extreme and volatile conditions, including habitat loss and climate change-associated threats. Here, we implement an integrated likelihood approach to relate scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) and dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) density, via dung distance sampling, to habitat, predator, and geographic correlates in Dghoumes National Park, Tunisia. We show how two threatened sympatric ungulates partition resources on the habitat axis, exhibiting nonuniform responses to the same vegetation gradient. Scimitar-horned oryx were positively associated with plant species richness, selecting for vegetated ephemeral watercourses (wadis) dominated by herbaceous cover. Conversely, dorcas gazelle were negatively associated with vegetation density (herbaceous height, litter cover, and herbaceous cover), selecting instead for rocky plains with sparse vegetation. We suggest that adequate plant species richness should be a prerequisite for areas proposed for future ungulate reintroductions in arid and semi-arid environments. This evidence will inform adaptive management of reintroduced ungulates in protected environments, helping managers and planners design sustainable ecosystems and effective conservation programs.
Desert, distance sampling, dorcas gazelle, North Africa, reintroduction, scimitar-horned oryx
6354-6365
Cooke, Robert S.C.
25919276-1693-4663-a306-a90e2db2a91f
Woodfine, Tim
6fcac20b-751f-47f2-bc17-83f4336e852a
Petretto, Marie
228fe179-d9c7-406c-90a7-d5a9190fda1d
Ezard, Thomas H.G.
a143a893-07d0-4673-a2dd-cea2cd7e1374
Cooke, Robert S.C.
25919276-1693-4663-a306-a90e2db2a91f
Woodfine, Tim
6fcac20b-751f-47f2-bc17-83f4336e852a
Petretto, Marie
228fe179-d9c7-406c-90a7-d5a9190fda1d
Ezard, Thomas H.G.
a143a893-07d0-4673-a2dd-cea2cd7e1374

Cooke, Robert S.C., Woodfine, Tim, Petretto, Marie and Ezard, Thomas H.G. (2016) Resource partitioning between ungulate populations in arid environments. Ecology and Evolution, 6 (17), 6354-6365. (doi:10.1002/ece3.2218).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Herbivores are major drivers of ecosystem structure, diversity, and function. Resilient ecosystems therefore require viable herbivore populations in a sustainable balance with environmental resource availability. This balance is becoming harder to achieve, with increasingly threatened species reliant on small protected areas in increasingly harsh and unpredictable environments. Arid environments in North Africa exemplify this situation, featuring a biologically distinct species assemblage exposed to extreme and volatile conditions, including habitat loss and climate change-associated threats. Here, we implement an integrated likelihood approach to relate scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) and dorcas gazelle (Gazella dorcas) density, via dung distance sampling, to habitat, predator, and geographic correlates in Dghoumes National Park, Tunisia. We show how two threatened sympatric ungulates partition resources on the habitat axis, exhibiting nonuniform responses to the same vegetation gradient. Scimitar-horned oryx were positively associated with plant species richness, selecting for vegetated ephemeral watercourses (wadis) dominated by herbaceous cover. Conversely, dorcas gazelle were negatively associated with vegetation density (herbaceous height, litter cover, and herbaceous cover), selecting instead for rocky plains with sparse vegetation. We suggest that adequate plant species richness should be a prerequisite for areas proposed for future ungulate reintroductions in arid and semi-arid environments. This evidence will inform adaptive management of reintroduced ungulates in protected environments, helping managers and planners design sustainable ecosystems and effective conservation programs.

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Accepted/In Press date: 11 May 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 17 August 2016
Published date: 9 September 2016
Keywords: Desert, distance sampling, dorcas gazelle, North Africa, reintroduction, scimitar-horned oryx
Organisations: Environmental, Centre for Biological Sciences, Paleooceanography & Palaeoclimate

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 399611
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/399611
PURE UUID: abacec14-b389-4509-9745-a99d9a345c10
ORCID for Thomas H.G. Ezard: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8305-6605

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 19 Aug 2016 13:01
Last modified: 10 Dec 2019 01:36

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Contributors

Author: Robert S.C. Cooke
Author: Tim Woodfine
Author: Marie Petretto
Author: Thomas H.G. Ezard ORCID iD

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