Advertisement

European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 537–548 | Cite as

Scale-dependent selection of greenness by African elephants in the Kruger-private reserve transboundary region, South Africa

  • Jason P. Marshal
  • Azhar Rajah
  • Francesca Parrini
  • Michelle Henley
  • Stephen R. Henley
  • Barend F. N. Erasmus
Original Paper

Abstract

Foraging behaviour and habitat selection occur as hierarchical processes. Understanding the factors that govern foraging and habitat selection thus requires investigation of those processes over the scales at which they occur. We investigated patterns of habitat use by African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in relation to vegetation greenness to investigate the scale at which that landscape attribute was most closely related to distribution of elephant locations. We analysed Global Positioning System radio-collar locations for 15 individuals, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index as a representation of vegetation greenness in a Geographic Information Systems framework. We compared the importance of vegetation greenness at three spatial scales: the total home range, the seasonal home range and the 16-day home range. During the wet season, seasonal home ranges for both sexes were associated with intermediate greenness within the total home range; there was no evidence of selection based on greenness at finer scales. During the dry season, the strongest associations were within the 16-day home range: individual locations for males tended to be in areas of intermediate greenness, and those for females were in areas of intermediate and high greenness. Our findings suggest that the role of vegetation greenness varies with the scale of analysis, likely reflecting the hierarchical processes involved in habitat selection by elephants.

Keywords

African elephant Habitat selection Loxodonta africana Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Scale 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful for the comments provided by two anonymous reviewers. Funding and logistics to capture and radio-collar the elephants in this study were organised by Save the Elephants. Dr J. G. Chirima assisted with GIS processing and home range estimation.

References

  1. Allison PD (2004) Convergence problems in logistic regression. In: Altman M, Gill J, McDonald MP (eds) Numerical issues in statistical computing for the social scientist. Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey, pp 238–252Google Scholar
  2. Archibald S, Scholes RJ (2007) Leaf green-up in a semi-arid African savanna—separating tree and grass responses to environmental cues. J Veg Sci 18:583–594Google Scholar
  3. Bailey DW, Gross JE, Laca EA, Rittenhouse LR, Coughenour MB, Swift DM, Sims PL (1996) Mechanisms that result in large-herbivore grazing distribution patterns. J Range Manage 49:386–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bates D, Maechler M, Dai B (2008) lme4: linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes. R package version 0.999375-28.Google Scholar
  5. Belovsky GE (1984) Herbivore optimal foraging a comparative test of three models. Am Nat 124:97–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanc JJ, Barnes RFW, Craig GC, Dublin HT, Thouless CR, Douglas-Hamilton I, Hart JA (2007) African elephant status report 2007: an update from the African elephant database. IUCN/SSC. http://www.african-elephant.org/aed/aesr2007.html
  7. Blundell GM, Maier JAK, Debevec EM (2001) Linear home ranges: effects of smoothing, sample size, and autocorrelation on kernel estimates. Ecol Monogr 71:469–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyce MS (2006) Scale for resource selection functions. Divers Distrib 12:269–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bro-Jorgensen J, Brown M, Pettorelli N (2008) Using the satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to explain ranging patterns in a lek-breeding antelope: the importance of scale. Oecologia 158:177–182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chamaillé-Jammes S, Valeix M, Fritz H (2007) Managing heterogeneity in elephant distribution: interactions between elephant population density and surface-water availability. J Appl Ecol 44:625–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Charnov EL (1976) Optimal foraging, the marginal value theorem. Theor Popul Biol 9:129–136PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Codron J, Lee-Thorp JA, Sponheimer M, Codron D, Grant RC, de Ruiter DJ (2006) Elephant (Loxodonta africana) diets in Kruger National Park, South Africa: spatial and landscape differences. J Mammal 87:27–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Beer Y, van Aarde RJ (2008) Do landscape heterogeneity and water distribution explain aspects of elephant home range in southern Africa’s arid savannas? J Arid Environ 72:2017–2025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fryxell JM, Wilmshurst JF, Sinclair ARE (2004) Predictive models of movement by Serengeti grazers. Ecology 85:2429–2435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gertenbach WPD (1980) Rainfall patterns in the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 23:35–43Google Scholar
  16. Gillies CS, Hebblewhite M, Nielsen SE, Krawchuk MA, Aldridge CL, Saher FJL, DJ SCE, Jerde CL (2006) Application of random effects to the study of resource selection by animals. J Anim Ecol 75:887–898PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grainger M, van Aarde RJ, White IJ (2008) Landscape heterogeneity and the use of space by elephants in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Afr J Ecol 43:369–375CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gustine DD, Parker KL, Lay RJ, Gillingham MP, Heard DC (2006) Interpreting resource selection at different scales for woodland caribou in winter. J Wildl Manage 70:1601–1614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guy PR (1976) Diurnal activity patterns of elephant in the Sengwa Area, Rhodesia. Afr J Ecol 14:285–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Harris GM, Russell GJ, van Aarde RJ, Pimm SL (2008) Rules of habitat use by elephants Loxodonta africana in southern Africa: insights for regional management. Oryx 42:66–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hebblewhite M, Merrill E, McDermid G (2008) A multi-scale test of the forage maturation hypothesis in a partially migratory ungulate population. Ecol Monogr 78:141–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huete A, Didan K, Miura T, Rodriguez EP, Gao X, Ferreira LG (2002) Overview of the radiometric and biophysical performance of the MODIS vegetation indices. Remote Sens Environ 83:195–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson DH (1980) The comparison of usage and availability measurements for evaluating resource preference. Ecology 61:65–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Katnik DD, Wielgus RB (2005) Landscape proportions versus Monte Carlo simulated home ranges for estimating habitat availability. J Wildl Manage 69:20–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kie JG, Bowyer RT, Nicholson MC, Boroski BB, Loft ER (2002) Landscape heterogeneity at differing scales: effects on spatial distribution of mule deer. Ecology 83:530–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kotliar NB, Wiens JA (1990) Multiple scales of patchiness and patch structure: a hierarchical framework for the study of heterogeneity. Oikos 59:253–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Langvatn R, Hanley TA (1993) Feeding-patch choice by red deer in relation to foraging efficiency: an experiment. Oecologia 95:164–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Loarie SR, van Aarde RJ, Pimm SL (2009a) Elephant seasonal vegetation preferences across dry and wet savannas. Biol Conserv 142:3099–3107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Loarie SR, van Aarde RJ, Pimm SL (2009b) Fences and artificial water affect African savannah elephant movement patterns. Biol Conserv 142:3086–3098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Manly BFJ (2007) Randomization, bootstrap and Monte Carlo methods in biology. Chapman & Hall, Boca Raton, FloridaGoogle Scholar
  31. Manly BFJ, McDonald LL, Thomas DL, McDonald TL, Erickson WP (2002) Resource selection by animals: statistical design and analysis for field studies. Kluwer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  32. Morris DW (1987) Ecological scale and habitat use. Ecology 68:362–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Morris S, Humphreys D, Reynolds D (2006) Myth, marula, and elephant: an assessment of voluntary ethanol intoxication of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) following feeding on the fruit of the marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea). Physiol Biochem Zool 79:363–369PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mueller T, Olson KA, Fuller TK, Schaller GB, Murray MG, Leimgruber P (2008) In search of forage: predicting dynamic habitats of Mongolian gazelles using satellite-based estimates of vegetation productivity. J Appl Ecol 45:649–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murwira A, Skidmore AK (2005) The response of elephants to the spatial heterogeneity of vegetation in a southern African agricultural landscape. Landscape Ecol 20:217–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Musiega DE, Kazadi S (2004) Simulating the East African wildebeest migration patterns using GIS and remote sensing. Afr J Ecol 42:355–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Owen-Smith N, Cooper SM (1989) Nutritional ecology of a browsing ruminant, the kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), through the seasonal cycle. J Zool 219:29–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Parker KL (2003) Advances in the nutritional ecology of cervids at different scales. Ecoscience 10:395–411Google Scholar
  39. Pettorelli N, Vik JO, Mysterud A, Gaillard JM, Tucker CJ, Stenseth NC (2005a) Using the satellite-derived NDVI to assess ecological responses to environmental change. Trends Ecol Evol 20:503–510PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pettorelli N, Gaillard JM, Mysterud A, Duncan P, Stenseth NC, Delorme D, van Laere G, Toigo C, Klein F (2005b) Using a proxy of plant productivity (NDVI) to find key periods for animal performance: the case of roe deer. Oikos 112:565–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. R Development Core Team (2008) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. http://www.r-project.org
  42. Riginos C, Grace JB (2008) Savanna tree density, herbivores, and the herbaceous community: bottom-up vs. top-down effects. Ecology 89:2228–2238PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rogers KH, O’Keefe J (2003) River heterogeneity: ecosystem structure, function, and management. In: du Toit JT, Rogers KH, Biggs HC (eds) The Kruger experience: ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity. Island Press, Washington DC, pp 189–218Google Scholar
  44. Schaefer JA, Messier F (1995) Habitat selection as a hierarchy: the spatial scales of winter foraging by muskoxen. Ecography 18:333–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scholes RJ, Archer SR (1997) Tree-grass interactions in savannas. Ann Rev Ecolog Syst 28:517–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scholes RJ, Walker BH (1993) An African savanna: synthesis of the Nylsvley study. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Searle KR, Hobbs NT, Shipley LA (2005) Should I stay or should I go? Patch departure decisions by herbivores at multiple scales. Oikos 111:417–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Senft RL, Coughenour MB, Bailey DW, Rittenhouse LR, Sala OE, Swift DM (1987) Large herbivore foraging and ecological hierarchies. Bioscience 37:789–799CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shannon G, Page B, Slotow R, Duffy K (2006) African elephant home range and habitat selection in Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa. Afr Zool 41:37–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Smit IPJ, Grant CC, Whyte IJ (2007) Landscape-scale sexual segregation in the dry season distribution and resource utilization of elephants in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Divers Distrib 13:225–236CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. van Bommel FPJ, Heitkonig IMA, Epema GF, Ringrose S, Bonyongo C, Veenendaal EM (2006) Remotely sensed habitat indicators for predicting distribution of impala (Aepyceros melampus) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. J Trop Ecol 22:101–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Venter FJ, Scholes RJ, Eckhardt HC (2003) The abiotic template and its associated vegetation pattern. In: du Toit JT, Rogers KH, Biggs HC (eds) The Kruger experience: ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity. Island Press, Washington DC, pp 83–129Google Scholar
  53. Wall J, Douglas-Hamilton I, Vollrath F (2006) Elephants avoid costly mountaineering. Curr Biol 16:R527–R529PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Western D, Lindsay WK (1984) Seasonal herd dynamics of a savanna elephant population. Afr J Ecol 22:229–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Westoby M (1978) What are the biological bases of varied diets? Am Nat 112:627–631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. White LJT (1994) Sacoglottis gabonensis fruiting and the seasonal movements of elephants in the Lope Reserve, Gabon. J Trop Ecol 10:121–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wiens JA (1976) Population responses to patchy environments. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 7:81–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wiens JA (1989) Spatial scaling in ecology. Funct Ecol 3:385–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wiens JA, Rotenberry JT, van Horne B (1987) Habitat occupancy patterns of North American shrub steppe birds: the effects of spatial scale. Oikos 48:132–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilmshurst JF, Fryxell JM, Hudson RJ (1995) Forage quality and patch choice by wapiti (Cervus elaphus). Behav Ecol 6:209–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wittemyer G, Rasmussen HB, Douglas-Hamilton I (2007) Breeding phenology in relation to NDVI variability in free-ranging African elephant. Ecography 30:42–50Google Scholar
  62. Worton BJ (1989) Kernel methods for estimating the utilization distribution in home range studies. Ecology 70:164–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Young KD, Ferreira SM, van Aarde RJ (2009) Elephant spatial use in wet and dry savannas of southern Africa. J Zool 278:189–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason P. Marshal
    • 1
  • Azhar Rajah
    • 1
  • Francesca Parrini
    • 1
  • Michelle Henley
    • 2
    • 3
  • Stephen R. Henley
    • 2
    • 3
  • Barend F. N. Erasmus
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandWitsSouth Africa
  2. 2.Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of South AfricaFloridaSouth Africa
  3. 3.Save the Elephants, Transboundary Elephant Research ProgrammeHoedspruitSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations