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Wageningen University (2016)

Assessing eland habitat suitability : an explorative study on vegetation and species distribution in the Sneeuberg Nature Reserve, South Africa

Wierik, Sofie Anna te

Titre : Assessing eland habitat suitability : an explorative study on vegetation and species distribution in the Sneeuberg Nature Reserve, South Africa

Auteur : Wierik, Sofie Anna te

Université de soutenance : Wageningen University

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2016

Résumé
In the Sneeuberg Nature Reserve, South Africa, reintroduction of indigenous eland (Taurotragus oryx) has left landowners with an eland population that has grown remarkably. To reduce the risk of overgrazing from eland overabundance, ecologically sound ecosystem management that supports sustainable stocking rates is required. Understanding spatial and temporal dynamics of landscape utilization by species is pivotal to determine sustainable stocking rates. This research explores how eland utilizes his landscape by analyzing which and how environmental factors can explain spatial distribution of eland and produces a habitat suitability map for eland in the Sneeuberg Nature Reserve, representative for the dry winter season, using the commonly used species distribution model MaxEnt.
Variables that appear to explain eland distribution are altitude, net primary productivity and vegetation types. Eland density is highest in low lying riparian areas with low abundance of Merxmuellera disticha within an optimized plant productivity range (NDVI values of 0.2 – 0.6). The non-linear response of the predicted eland distribution to altitude suggests that soil type also plays a role in the species’ distribution. Although eland is known to mainly browse, no relation between woody browse abundance and eland density was observed. However, as the quality of the woody browse species is probably more important, more research on eland dietary requirements is needed. Additionally, as predicted species-habitat associations might only be representative for the dry season, exploration of multi-temporal habitat suitability for eland is required to approximate sustainable stocking rates

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Page publiée le 16 septembre 2016, mise à jour le 1er janvier 2018