Ecological and anthropogenic effects on the density of migratory and resident ungulates in a human-inhabited protected area


Jassiel M'soka, Scott Creel, Matthew S. Becker, James D. Murdoch


African Journal of Ecology


Understanding the influence of environmental conditions and people on ungulate density and distribution is of key importance for conservation. We evaluated the effects of ecological and anthropogenic factors on the density of migratory wildebeest and zebra and resident oribi in Zambia's Liuwa Plain National Park where human settlements were present. We conducted transect surveys from 2010 to 2013 using distance sampling methods and then developed a set of 38 candidate models to describe results and predict density. Models included the effects of variables in three classes: environmental (year, season, vegetation, predominant grass height, burn, water presence), predation risk (hyaena density) and anthropogenic (distance to park boundary and settlements). Densities ranged from 6.2 to 60.8individualskm(-2) for wildebeest, 1.1 to 14.5individualskm(-2) for oribi and 1.8 to 8.1individualskm(-2) for zebra. The most complex models were strongly supported for all three species. The magnitude and sign of variable effects differed among species, indicating that local densities of wildebeest, oribi and zebra are affected by a complex set of anthropogenic and ecological factors. Results reveal resource partitioning among ungulate species and indicate that predation risk and proximity to humans affect ungulate distributions with implications for managing migrations in the Greater Liuwa Ecosystem.



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