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Rainfall reduces the potential for competitive suppression of a globally endangered ungulate by livestock

April 8, 2024

Protected areas often are too small to house populations of wide-ranging species. Viability of wildlife populations therefore depends on whether interactions with humans and their land uses are negative, neutral, or positive. In central Iran, we measured interactions between globally endangered onagers (Equus hemionus onager) and livestock by analyzing remotely-sensed vegetation metrics within livestock grazing areas, tracking 9 animals with GPS telemetry, and assessing onagers' diet quality through analysis of fecal samples. Resource selection by onagers depended both on season and the presence of livestock. During the dry season, livestock reduced forage (some combination of forage biomass and forage quality) compared to pre-grazing periods, demonstrating potential for competitive suppression of onagers by livestock when resources are scarce. Additionally, and during both seasons, selection for forage by onagers was accentuated at night when livestock were absent, indicating onager avoidance of livestock. During the wet season, onagers exposed to livestock exhibited higher-quality diets than those that did not co-occur with livestock, suggesting that livestock grazing may potentially enhance forage quality for onagers. Consequently, collaboration with pastoralists to regularly rotate the locations of dry and wet season leases could alleviate negative effects of livestock grazing on onagers. Similar to other cases in multi-use landscapes, temporal shifts in the strength of competition—driven by diel cycles and seasonal rainfall—may characterize wildlife-livestock interactions in Iran and elsewhere in Asian rangelands. Our study highlights the possibility that conservation of an endangered mammal could be compatible with livestock production, at least during wet seasons.

Publication Year 2024
Title Rainfall reduces the potential for competitive suppression of a globally endangered ungulate by livestock
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2024.110476
Authors Saeideh Esmaeili, Mahmoud-Reza Hemami, Petra Kaczensky, Kathryn A. Schoenecker, Sarah R.B. King, Bahareh Shahriari, Chris Walzer, Jake Goheen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Biological Conservation
Index ID 70252826
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center