Animal-habitat relationships in high altitude rangelands

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Animal-habitat relationships in high altitude rangelands

 

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Title: Animal-habitat relationships in high altitude rangelands
Author: Singh, Navinder J.
Date: 18-Sep-2008
Type: Doctoral thesis; Doktorgradsavhandling
Abstract: This study conducted in the high altitude rangelands of Indian Transhimalaya, deals with basic questions regarding the ecology of an endangered species, the wildsheep Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni) and applied issues related to its conservation and potential conflict with the local nomadic pastoralists. The basic questions on ecology are aimed at delineating the habitat and resource selection processes, identifying factors causing sexual segregation and efficient surveying and sampling. The applied aspect focuses on the changing face of pastoralism and the potential impacts of modernising livestock husbandry on argali.
Overall, the study provides a general framework towards the understanding of argali-habitat relationships at different spatio-temporal scales. The spatial determinant associated with altitude in the area, predicts argali habitat and resource selection in this relatively homogenous landscape. These determine the range of other topographic variables and forage characteristics selected by argali. The selection of feeding patches in the selected range of altitude and topography is mainly characterised by their greenness and the quality of plant groups. Adjusting to changing forage quality, argali display an opportunistic feeding strategy, selecting grasses in early spring and switching to forbs later in summer. Nevertheless, the habitat selection process did not appear to differ among the sexes to drive sexual segregation. There was, however, strong segregation among the sexes as well as between lactating and non lactating females. The reasons for segregation appeared to be predominantly social, but driven ultimately by predation and concomitantly by resources. The habitat selection information was used to design a stratified random sampling strategy that led to i) a significant reduction in survey effort in sampling these sparsely distributed species and ii) reduction in sampling bias.
The applied aspect of the study outlines and evaluates the dramatic changes in the nomadic pastoralism that have occurred in the past five decades in the study area. These have led to a loss of pastures (-25 to -33%) of the nomads, consequent readjustment in traditional patterns of pasture use, intensified grazing pressures (25 to 70%) and rangeland degradation in the area. Such changes may have serious consequences on the survival of local wildlife, as tested with a study of the effects on argali of livestock presence and resource exploitation. Hence, a successful conservation and recovery strategy should focus on: minimising the impacts of livestock on argali, identifying the factors affecting the persistence of the current populations, increasing local sub populations of this species to prevent extinction due to stochastic events, prevent loss of genetic diversity and excessive fragmentation and thus ensuring gene flow.
Ecological Niche Factor Analyses (ENFA), bias-reduced logistic regression and Fuzzy correspondence analyses (FCA) were used to answer habitat and resource selection questions. A sexual segregation and aggregation statistic (SSAS) was used to estimate the components of sexual segregation and test segregation. SSAS combined with canonical correspondence analyses (CCA) allowed the estimation of segregation based on habitat variables. Logistic regression models were formulated to estimate models on which the stratified random sampling strategy was based. The Animal - Habitat relationships in high altitude rangelands overall study also included surveys, interviews and literature reviews to understand the nomads’ movement and pasture use patterns of their livestock. Kernel density estimations (KDE) were used to estimate extent of range overlaps between livestock and argali.
Description: The papers of the thesis are not available in Munin:
1. Navinder J Singh, Nigel G Yoccoz, Nicolas Lecomte, Steeve D Côté and Joseph L Fox: «Scale and selection of habitat and resources: Tibetan argali in high altitude rangelands» (manuscript). Published version, Can. J. Zool. 88: 436-447 (2010), available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/Z10-015
2. Navinder J Singh, Christophe Bonenfant, Nigel G Yoccoz and Steeve D Côté: «Proximate and ultimate causes of sexual segregation in eurasian wildsheep, the Tibetan argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni)» (manuscript). Later published (with altered title) in Behavioral Ecology, 2010, 21(2):410-418, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arp205
3. Navinder J Singh, Nigel G Yoccoz, Yash Veer Bhatnagar and Joseph L Fox: «Using resource selection functions to sample rare species in high-altitude ecosystems: a case study with Tibetan argali» (manuscript). Later published (with altered title) in Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 18, Number 11, October 2009, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-009-9615-5
4. Navinder J Singh, Joseph L Fox, Yash Veer Bhatnagar, Nicolas Lecomte and Nigel G Yoccoz: «Changing nomadic pastorialism in transhimalyan rangelands of India - causes and consequences» (manuscript).
5. Singh, N.J., Bhatnagar, Y.V., Yoccoz, N.G. and Fox, J L: «Assessing wildlife-livestock interaction in Indian transhimalya: Tibetan argali as a case study» (manuscript)
6. Navinder J. Singh, Joseph L. Fox and Yash Veer Bhatnagar: «Tibetan argali in India, Nepal and the western Tibet autonomous region, China», chapter in Richard P Reading (Ed): «Argali biology and conservation», Denver Zoological Foundation (In press).
Publisher: Universitetet i Tromsø; University of Tromsø
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10037/2574


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