Coping with spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability in resources and risks: Adaptive movement behaviour by a large grazing herbivore.
Public Library of Science
Movement is a key mean for mobile species to cope with heterogeneous environments. While in herbivorous mammals large-scale migration has been widely investigated, finescale movement responses to local variations in resources and predation risk remain much less studied, especially in savannah environments. We developed a novel approach based on complementary movement metrics (residence time, frequency of visits and regularity of visits) to relate movement patterns of a savannah grazer, the blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus , to fine-scale variations in food availability, predation risk and water availability in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Wildebeests spent more time in grazing lawns where the grass is of higher quality but shorter than in seep zones, where the grass is of lower quality but more abundant. Although the daily distances moved were longer during the wet season compared to the dry season, the daily net displacement was lower, and the residence time higher, indicating a more frequent occurrence of area-concentred searching. In contrast, during the late dry season the foraging sessions were more fragmented and wildebeests moved more frequently between foraging areas. Surprisingly, predation risk appeared to be the second factor, after water availability, influencing movement during the dry season, when resources are limiting and thus expected to influence movement more. Our approach, using complementary analyses of different movement metrics, provided an integrated view of changes in individual movement with varying environmental conditions and predation risk. It makes it possible to highlight the adaptive behavioral decisions made by wildebeest to cope with unpredictable environmental variations and provides insights for population conservation.
biomass, displacement behavior, dry season, environmental factor, female, food availability, foraging, genetic heterogeneity, grazing, habitat, habitat quality, herbivore, nonhuman, population migration, predation risk, season, seasonal variation, South Africa, summer, vegetation, water availability, wet season, wildebeest, Connochaetes, Connochaetes taurinus, Mammalia
Martin, J. et al. 2015. Coping with spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability in resources and risks: Adaptive movement behaviour by a large grazing herbivore. PLoS ONE 10(2).