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15 May 2020 Habitat Use by a Large Herbivore Guild in a Fenced South African Protected Area
Elena Mariotti, Francesca Parrini, Cornelius J. Louw, Jason P. Marshal
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In fenced protected areas with limited opportunities to disperse, resources and constraints vary in space and time, affecting herbivore behaviour. The distribution, availability and quality of resources, burnt areas, and potential inter-specific competition all play a role in sustaining populations of large sympatric African herbivores. We investigated the role of resources, constraints and interspecific relationships on habitat use by three ruminants – black and blue wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou, C. taurinus) and red hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), and a non-ruminant, plains zebra (Equus quagga), across seasons and in different landscape types in a South African reserve. Black wildebeest, blue wildebeest and red hartebeest preferred the open grassland landscape, with homogeneous vegetation, while zebra favoured the wooded grassland landscape, with more heterogeneous vegetation. Burnt areas and vegetation greenness were important for all species, while elevation represented a constraint for black wildebeest only. The presence/absence of other species was important in shaping landscape use for black and blue wildebeest, and this suggests the possibility of competition. Our findings confirm the importance of heterogeneity and, in particular, the important role of a planned burning regime in maintaining such heterogeneity to sustain multi-species herbivore assemblages in small fenced nature reserves, where competition might arise between species using similar resources.

Elena Mariotti, Francesca Parrini, Cornelius J. Louw, and Jason P. Marshal "Habitat Use by a Large Herbivore Guild in a Fenced South African Protected Area," African Journal of Wildlife Research 50(1), (15 May 2020).
Received: 21 November 2019; Accepted: 23 April 2020; Published: 15 May 2020

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