Local-Scale Variation in Land Use Practice Supports a Diverse Carnivore Guild on Namibian Multiple-Use Rangeland
- September 1, 2021
- by Verschueren S., Briers-Louw W. D., Monterroso P., Marker L. L.
Many rangelands worldwide are threatened by human population growth, so there is an urgent need for understanding how we can preserve functional diversity across these systems. The conservation and restoration of mammalian carnivores (order Carnivora) is critical because they impart important trophic cascading effects. Land use practice on rangelands may determine carnivore distributions and abundances; thus, to effectively facilitate coexistence between carnivores and humans, it is essential to under- stand carnivore community functioning in human-dominated landscapes. We conducted a camera trapping survey on multiple-use rangeland in north-central Namibia to investigate the spatial ecology of free ranging carnivores in a farming system that comprises both livestock farming activities and wildlife-based land uses. We hypothesized that carnivore diversity and occupancy would be determined by farm type and predicted the associations of carnivore distributions with covariates related to resource availability, intraguild interactions, and anthropogenic influence. We considered single-season occupancy models and hypothesized that in this semiarid study system, seasonality had profound effects on the spatial ecology of carnivores. Our results show that Namibian multiple-use rangeland supported a diverse carnivore guild. Carnivore diversity and occupancy were generally similar across farm types, suggesting that the carnivore community assemblage in our study area was homogeneous. Local-scale variation in land use practices did not limit carnivore distributions, which could be key to maintaining ecological integrity of rangelands. The effect of seasonality suggested that carnivore space use on Namibian rangelands was influenced by availability of dry season resources. In addition, carnivores were dependent on natural resources, showed complex interactions with intraguild members, and had seasonally contrasting associations with anthropogenic activities. Namibian multiple-use rangelands may function as viable socioecological landscapes and could act as an important link between core conservation areas.