Through the taste buds of a large herbivore: foodscape modeling contributes to an understanding of forage selection processes

30 September 2019

Duparc, Antoine; Garel, Mathieu; Pascal, Marchand; Dubray, Dominique; Maillard, Daniel; Loison, Anne

How large herbivores track resource quantity and quality through time has formed the core of an abundance of literature on migratory populations in recent decades. Yet, relating foraging processes and habitat selection patterns in resident populations, where spatial heterogeneity of food resources is fine-grained and/or where the portion of edible plants (i.e., the foodscape) is low, is challenging. We addressed this issue in a mountain population of chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra), an intermediate feeder, whose individuals do not migrate. We relied on a rare combination of data on habitat use of 50 GPS-collared females and data on the quantity (biomass) and quality (phenology) of edible resources in their landscape, derived from field sampling of vegetation, remote sensing, and diet (DNA barcoding). The foodscape of the chamois was composed of a low proportion of the available biomass (