Scale-dependent selection of greenness by African elephants in the Kruger-private reserve transboundary region, South Africa
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.
KeywordsAfrican elephant Habitat selection Loxodonta africana Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Scale
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.
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