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Symes C.T.,University of Witwatersrand | Wilson J.W.,North Carolina State University | Woodborne S.M.,University of Witwatersrand | Woodborne S.M.,South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research | And 2 more authors.
Austral Ecology | Year: 2013

It is often hypothesized that two species competing for the same resource cannot stably coexist unless they partition their resources in space and time. More recently stable isotope analyses have complemented traditional, observation-based niche research by conceptualizing many of the characteristics of communities, for example, trophic niche width and the partitioning of resources. Here we quantify resource partitioning of sympatric small mammal species in an African ecosystem by analysing stable isotope ratios of hair collected from a South African forest-grassland vegetation mosaic, and combine this with known spatial and temporal behavioural data to interpret community competition and resource partitioning. We observe niche separation to different degrees across the entire community, with different species displaying either unique isotopic dietary preferences, or partitioning resources in space and/or time. δ13C values were more enriched in species that inhabited afromontane grassland compared with those that inhabited afromontane forest, a reflection of the dominant vegetation in each habitat. Contrary to expectations, arboreal rodents occupied higher trophic positions than terrestrial rodents and approaching δ15N values similar to insectivorous shrews, suggesting that arboreal rodents feed on items such as arthropods enriched in 15N. While grassland species display phenotypic plasticity in terms of dietary preferences, small mammals that occurred in forests display narrow niche preferences, suggesting these species may be particularly sensitive to habitat modifications. Our results illustrate that the use of stable isotopes can be used in conjunction with spatial and temporal behavioural knowledge to elucidate resource partitioning in small African mammal communities. © 2013 Ecological Society of Australia.

Wilson John.W.,North Carolina State University | Wilson John.W.,University of Pretoria | Stirnemann R.L.,South African Wildlife Research Expedition | Shaikh Z.S.,South African Wildlife Research Expedition | And 2 more authors.
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2010

An increase in edge area reduces the effective size of habitat fragments and thus the area available for habitat-interior specialists. However, it is unclear how edge effects compare at different ecotones in the same system. We investigated the response of a small mammal community associated with Afromontane forests to edge effects at three different habitat transitions: natural forest to grassland (natural edge, structurally different vegetation types), natural forest to mature plantation (human-altered edge, structurally similar vegetation types) and natural forest to harvested plantation (human-altered edge, structurally different vegetation types). We predicted that edge effects should be less severe at natural ecotones and at similarly structured contiguous vegetation types than human-altered ecotones and differently structured contiguous vegetation types, respectively. We found that forest species seemed to avoid all habitat edges in our study area. Surprisingly, natural edges supported a less diverse small mammal community than human-altered forest edges. However, edge effects were observed deeper into native forests surrounded by mature alien plantations (and more so at harvested plantations) than into native forests surrounded by native grasslands. The net effect of mature plantations was therefore to reduce the functional size of the natural forest by creating a larger edge. We suggest that when plantations are established a buffer zone of natural vegetation be left between natural forests and newly established plantations to mitigate the negative effects of plantation forestry. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Scantlebury D.M.,Queens University of Belfast | Mills M.G.L.,Lewis Foundation | Mills M.G.L.,University of Oxford | Wilson R.P.,University of Swansea | And 9 more authors.
Science | Year: 2014

Population viability is driven by individual survival, which in turn depends on individuals balancing energy budgets. As carnivores may function close to maximum sustained power outputs, decreased food availability or increased activity may render some populations energetically vulnerable. Prey theft may compromise energetic budgets of mesopredators, such as cheetahs and wild dogs, which are susceptible to competition from larger carnivores. We show that daily energy expenditure (DEE) of cheetahs was similar to size-based predictions and positively related to distance traveled. Theft at 25% only requires cheetahs to hunt for an extra 1.1 hour per day, increasing DEE by just 12%. Therefore, not all mesopredators are energetically constrained by direct competition. Other factors that increase DEE, such as those that increase travel, may be more important for population viability. Copyright © 2014 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science; all rights reserved.

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