Oecologia

, Volume 173, Issue 3, pp 837–847

Long-term density-dependent changes in habitat selection in red deer (Cervus elaphus)

  • F. J. Pérez-Barbería
  • R. J. Hooper
  • I. J. Gordon
Population ecology - Original research

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-013-2686-8

Cite this article as:
Pérez-Barbería, F.J., Hooper, R.J. & Gordon, I.J. Oecologia (2013) 173: 837. doi:10.1007/s00442-013-2686-8

Abstract

Understanding how habitat selection changes with population density is a key concept in population regulation, community composition and managing impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. At low density, it is expected that individuals select habitats in terms of their preference, but as population density increases, the availability of resources per individual declines on preferred habitats, leading to competition which forces some individuals to exploit less preferred habitats. Using spatial information of Scottish red deer (Cervus elaphus) winter counts, carried out in 110 areas across Scotland between 1961 and 2004 (a total of 1,206,495 deer observations), we showed how winter habitat niche breadth in red deer has widened with increasing population density. Heather moorland and montane habitats were most and least preferred for deer, respectively. Increasing density favoured the selection of grassland, to the detriment of the selection of heather moorland. The selection of heather and grassland decreased when temperature increased, while the selection of montane and peatland habitats increased. These findings are important for understanding how habitat use, density and population are likely to be affected by weather, and allow us to predict habitat impacts by large mammal herbivory and climate.

Keywords

Habitat use Niche breadth Population dynamics Spatial analysis 

Supplementary material

442_2013_2686_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 33 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. J. Pérez-Barbería
    • 1
  • R. J. Hooper
    • 1
  • I. J. Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.The James Hutton InstituteAberdeenScotland, UK

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