Predictive modelling of patch use by terrestrial herbivores


  • J.M. Fryxell


All animals are faced with substantial variation in resource abundance over time and space. Patch-use theory, often based on optimality principles, can be useful in gaining insight into possible evolutionary solutions to this puzzle. A key consideration in applying patch-use theory to large terrestrial herbivores is that local variation in the nutritional quality of food is often inversely related to local resource abundance. Trade-offs between resource quality and abundance can change traditional models of patch use in important ways, some of which are explored in this chapter. I consider two aspects of patchuse decisions: which patches to visit and how long to stay in a patch, once visited? Empirical data for large herbivores often suggest that optimality principles are useful in explaining which patches are used in a landscape, but are less successful at explaining how long herbivores choose to stay in a particular patch. I end the chapter by exploring emerging challenges in applying patch-use principles to landscape ecology of large herbivores