Landscape composition influences roe deer habitat selection at both home range and landscape scales
Understanding how patterns of habitat selection vary in relation to landscape structure is essential to predict ecological responses of species to global change and inform management. We investigated behavioural plasticity in habitat selection of roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in relation to variable habitat availability across a heterogeneous agricultural landscape at the home range and landscape scales. As expected, woodland was heavily selected, but we found no functional response for this habitat, i.e. no shift in habitat selection with changing habitat availability, possibly due to the presence of hedgerows which were increasingly selected as woodlands were less abundant. Hedgerows may thus function as a substitutable habitat for woodlands by providing roe deer with similar resources. We observed a functional response in the use of hedgerows, implying some degree of landscape complementation between hedgerows and open habitats, which may in part compensate for lower woodland availability. We also expected selection for woodland to be highest at the wider spatial scale, especially when this habitat was limiting. However, our results did not support this hypothesis, but rather indicated a marked influence of habitat composition, as both the availability and distribution of resources conditioned habitat selection. There was no marked between-sex difference in the pattern of habitat selection at either scale or between seasons at the landscape scale, however, within the home range, selection did differ between seasons. We conclude that landscape structure has a marked impact on roe deer habitat selection in agricultural landscapes through processes such as landscape complementation and supplementation.
Author(s): Morellet, N; Van Moorter, B; Cargnelutti, B; Angibault, JM; Lourtet, B; Merlet, J; Ladet, S; Hewison, AJM
Journal: Landscape Ecology