Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy
Associazione Teriologica Italiana
Habitat selection is a hierarchical process that may involve different patterns depending on the spatial and temporal scales of investigation. We studied habitat selection by European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) in a very diverse environment in the Italian eastern Alps, during summer. We sampled both coarse-grained habitat variables (topographic variables, habitat types and cover) and fine-grained habitat variables (forage components of habitat) in used and available locations along the movement trajectories of 14 adult roe deer equipped with GPS telemetry collars. We used conventional logistic regression to assess roe deer habitat selection at the seasonal home range scale, and conditional logistic regression to take into account the temporal aspect of habitat selection on a weekly basis. Our results indicate that topographic variables were not significant predictors for summer roe deer habitat selection. Roe deer strongly selected dense canopy cover, probably to avoid heat stress during warm summer days. In accordance with previous observations, roe deer preferred young forest stands dominated by pioneer species such as ash (Fraxinus spp.) and hazel (Corylus avellana) over climax environments. Roe deer positively selected shrubs (in particular Fraxinus spp., Erica herbacea, Rhododendron spp. and Vaccinium spp.) throughout the study period, whereas selection for grasses and sedges emerged only at the weekly scale. Habitat selection was clearly related to vegetation phenology, since roe deer selected plants in the most nutritive phenological stages, i.e., shrubs with buds, new leaves and fruits, and newly emergent grasses and sedges. Finally, we found stronger and more significant regression coefficients for forage components of habitat and habitat types at the weekly scale, indicating that matching spatial and temporal scales may improve our understanding of ecological patterns driving habitat selection. Conversely, selection patterns for canopy cover did not change across scales, indicating that this variable likely drives habitat selection in a similar way throughout the entire season.
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