Ungulate landscape use at TENR

By Elena Mariotti

I am currently doing fieldwork at Telperion and Ezemvelo Nature Reserves (TENR), situated on the boundaries of Gauteng and Mpumalanga Provinces. TENR host more than 20 herbivores species, including large mammals such as blesbuck, kudu and giraffe, several small carnivores like black-backed jackal, aardwolf, African civet and caracal, as well as reptiles and more than 250 species of birds.

I am working on my MSc dissertation about ungulate landscape use at two different spatial levels across seasons and different levels of landscape heterogeneity. My focus species are plains zebra (Equus quagga), blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) and red hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus). The main aim of my research is to explain the increasing number of the first three species and the decreasing of the latter one.

 

My fieldwork consists in driving across the 3 united reserves collecting data about characteristics of grass and landscape used by the animals. I then compare used characteristics with what is available to them, in order to understand what resources are selected by different ungulate species.
Some of the data I collect are: distance from a water source, elevation, grass greenness, height and  biomass. To calculate grass biomass I use a disc pasture meter (see the picture) which measures compressed grass height, from which it is possible to calculate grass standing crop through a calibration equation.
This study is part of a bigger project on herbivore feeding strategies at different spatial scales done by our Centre for African Ecology. I will come back to you with my final results!