, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 400-405
Date: 03 May 2001

Population density and small-scale variation in habitat quality affect phenotypic quality in roe deer

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Abstract.

We tested for fine-scale spatial heterogeneity in habitat quality in a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) population in the Chizé reserve located in western France by measuring spatial variation in the availability and plant nitrogen content of principal and preferred plant species. There were significant differences in habitat quality within the reserve: the principal food plants in spring and summer occurred more frequently in the oak woodland in the north than in the beech woodland in the south of the reserve. Within species, plants in the north had higher nitrogen contents than in the south. There was a positive spatial covariation between habitat quality, local density and fawn body weight: animal densities and fawn body weights were highest in the north, the best habitat (i.e. the habitat with more abundant food of higher quality). These results differ from those recently obtained on red deer (Cervus elaphus). We suggest that spatial organization and foraging behaviour must be accounted for when considering the effect of habitat quality on individual fitness of ungulates.

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