Landscape Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 9, pp 1505–1517 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal variability in resources affects herbivore home range formation in structurally contrasting and unpredictable agricultural landscapes

  • W. Ullmann
  • C. Fischer
  • K. Pirhofer-Walzl
  • S. Kramer-Schadt
  • N. Blaum
Research Article



Movement is one of the key mechanisms for animals to deal with changes within their habitats. Therefore, resource variability can impact animals’ home range formation, especially in spatially and temporally highly dynamic landscapes, such as farmland. However, the movement response to resource variability might depend on the underlying landscape structure.


We investigated whether a given landscape structure affects the level of home range size adaptation in response to resource variability. We tested whether increasing resource variability forces herbivorous mammals to increase their home ranges.


In 2014 and 2015 we collared 40 European brown hares (Lepus europaeus) with GPS-tags to record hare movements in two regions in Germany with differing landscape structures. We examined hare home range sizes in relation to resource availability and variability by using the normalized difference vegetation index as a proxy.


Hares in simple landscapes showed increasing home range sizes with increasing resource variability, whereas hares in complex landscapes did not enlarge their home range.


Animals in complex landscapes have the possibility to include various landscape elements within their home ranges and are more resilient against resource variability. But animals in simple landscapes with few elements experience shortcomings when resource variability becomes high. The increase in home range size, the movement related increase in energy expenditure, and a decrease in hare abundances can have severe implications for conservation of mammals in anthropogenic landscapes. Hence, conservation management could benefit from a better knowledge about fine-scaled effects of resource variability on movement behaviour.


Resource variability Resource availability Home range size European brown hare GPS tracking Telemetry Lepus europaeus 



This study was conducted in cooperation with and funds from the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), the long-term research platform “AgroScapeLab Quillow” (Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) e.V.) and within the DFG funded research training group ‘BioMove’ (RTG 2118-1). Part of the telemetry material was also funded by the European Fund for Rural Development (EFRE) in the German federal state of Brandenburg. We thank the employees of the ZALF research station in Dedelow for their help and technical support. We also thank the Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin—Niederfinow and Jochen Godt from the University of Kassel for providing the nets to catch hares. We also thank all students and hunters that helped with trapping and the land owners for allowing us to work on their land. All procedures for the research were obtained in accordance with the Federal Nature Conservation Act (§ 45 Abs. 7 Nr. 3) and approved by the local nature conservation authority (Reference Nos. LUGV V3-2347-22-2013 and 55.2-1-54-2532-229-13).

Supplementary material

10980_2018_676_MOESM1_ESM.doc (245 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 245 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Ecology and Nature ConservationUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Landscape BiogeochemistryLeibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)MünchebergGermany
  3. 3.Restoration Ecology, Department of Ecology and Ecosystem ManagementTechnische Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  4. 4.Institute of Biology, Dahlem Center for Plant SciencesFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Ecological DynamicsLeibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)BerlinGermany
  6. 6.Department of EcologyTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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