Resource partitioning among different-sized savanna herbivores

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic presentationAcademic


Dietary niche partitioning is seen as an important mechanism for coexistence of ecologically similar consumers, and a leading explanation for the high diversity of co-occurring mammalian herbivores in African savannas landscape. Ultimately, individuals of two different herbivore species will never eat exactly the same plant species, and new methods such as DNA metabarcoding of dung increasingly allow the quantification of these differences. However, integrating resource partitioning into insightful models of community dynamics, food webs and ecosystem dynamics requires some degree of aggregation of both herbivore species and their plant resources into functional groups. Previous studies on this question have gained important insights by aggregating consumers into grazers and browsers, into ruminants and non-ruminants, into migrants and resident species, and by studying their resource partitioning along body size gradients. The aggregation of resources and habitats typically follows this, as grasses versus woody species, high quality short stoloniferous grasses versus low quality tussock grasses, short shrubs versus tall trees, or dry season habitats versus wet season habitats. Such different aggregations of consumers and resources represent different (implicit) assumptions on resource competition versus resource partitioning and thus represent different niche structures, leading to different model outcomes. Using field-collected data from the Sergenti-Mara ecosystem, we explore the consequences of different levels of aggregation of consumers and resources for their assumed niche structure, and test the different outcomes against long-term time series observations of their population dynamics.
Event titleMathematical Models in Ecology and Evolution 2022
Event typeConference
LocationReading, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational