Human-induced environmental changes influence habitat use by an ungulate over the long term

Michał Ciach , Łukasz Pęksa


Habitat use and preferences may be subject to spatial and temporal changes. However, long-term studies of species–habitat relationships are the exception. In the present research, long-term trends in habitat use by an alpine ungulate, the Tatra chamois Rupicapra rupicapra tatrica, were analyzed. We examined how environmental changes attributable to climate change, removal of sheep, and habituation to hikers, which took place over the last half-century have changed the spatial distribution of animals. Data on the localities of groups sighted between 1957 and 2013 during autumnal population surveys were used to evaluate habitat associations: these were correlated with year, group size, population size, and climatic conditions. The results indicate that the Tatra chamois is tending, over the long term, to lower its altitude of occurrence, reduce its average distance to hiking trails, and stay less often on slopes with a southerly aspect. These trends are independent of group size, population size, and the weather conditions prevailing during observations, though not for altitude, where increases in air temperature are related to finding chamois at higher elevations. The proportion of alpine meadows and slope in the places used by chamois is correlated with population size, while the proportion of areas with trees and/or shrubs is correlated with group size and air temperature, though long-term changes were not evident for these variables. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first to document long-term trends in habitat use by ungulates. It shows that a species’ ecology is influenced by human-induced changes: abandonment of pasturage, high-mountain tourism, and climate changes, which constitute the most probable reasons for this aspect of behavioral evolution in the Tatra chamois.
Author Michał Ciach (FoF / IoEaS / DBL)
Michał Ciach,,
, Łukasz Pęksa
Łukasz Pęksa,,
Journal seriesCurrent Zoology, ISSN 1674-5507, e-ISSN 2396-9814, (N/A 100 pkt)
Issue year2019
Publication size in sheets0.5
Keywords in Englishhabitat selection, long-term study, population ecology, protected area, ruminant
ASJC Classification1103 Animal Science and Zoology
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)100
Score sourcejournalList
Publication indicators WoS Citations = 0; Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2018 = 0.983; WoS Impact Factor: 2018 = 2.07 (2) - 2018=2.457 (5)
Citation count*2 (2020-08-07)
Additional fields
FinansowanieThis work was financially supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education by statutory funds to M. Ciach.
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