The impact of burning on lion Panthera leo habitat choice in an African savanna

Stephanie Eby, Anna Mosser, Ali Swanson, Craig Packer, Mark Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Carnivores play a central role in ecosystem processes by exerting top-down control, while fire exerts bottom-up control in ecosystems throughout the world, yet, little is known about how fire affects short-term carnivore distributions across the landscape. Through the use of a long-term data set we investigated the distribution of lions, during the daytime, in relation to burned areas in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. We found that lions avoid burned areas despite the fact that herbivores, their prey, are attracted to burned areas. Prey attraction, however, likely results from the reduction in cover caused by burning, that may thereby decrease lion hunting success. Lions also do not preferentially utilize the edges of burned areas over unburned areas despite the possibility that edges would combine the benefit of cover with proximity to abundant prey. Despite the fact that lions avoid burned areas, lion territory size and reproductive success were not affected by the proportion of the territory burned each year. Therefore, burning does not seem to reduce lion fitness perhaps because of the heterogeneity of burned areas across the landscape or because it is possible that when hunting at night lions visit burned areas despite their daytime avoidance of these areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Zoology
Volume59
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Fire
  • Habitat distribution
  • Lions
  • Predator-prey interactions
  • Protected area management
  • Savannas

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