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Implications of Spatial Habitat Diversity on Diet Selection of European Bison and Przewalski’s Horses in a Rewilding Area

1
Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany
2
Grassland and Forage Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and the Environment, University of Rostock, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, 18059 Rostock, Germany
3
Remote Sensing Section, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam, GFZ, German, Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg A17, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(4), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11040063
Received: 25 March 2019 / Revised: 9 April 2019 / Accepted: 10 April 2019 / Published: 18 April 2019
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Abstract

In Europe, the interest in introducing megaherbivores to achieve ambitious habitat restoration goals is increasing. In this study, we present the results of a one-year monitoring program in a rewilding project in Germany (Doeberitzer Heide), where European bison (Bison bonasus) and Przewalski’s horses (Equus ferus przewalskii) were introduced for ecological restoration purposes. Our objectives were to investigate diet and habitat preferences of Przewalski’s horses and European bison under free-choice conditions without fodder supplementation. In a random forest classification approach, we used multitemporal RapidEye time series imagery to map the diversity of available habitats within the study area. This spatially explicit habitat distribution from satellite imagery was combined with direct field observations of seasonal diet preferences of both species. In line with the availability of preferred forage plants, European bison and Przewalski’s horses both showed seasonal habitat preferences. Because of their different preferences for forage plants, they did not overlap in habitat use except for a short time in the colder season. European bison used open habitats and especially wet open habitats more than expected based on available habitats in the study area. Comparative foraging and feeding niches should be considered in the establishment of multispecies projects to maximize the outcome of restoration processes. View Full-Text
Keywords: diet; European bison; Przewalski’s horse; habitat classification; satellite imagery diet; European bison; Przewalski’s horse; habitat classification; satellite imagery
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Zielke, L.; Wrage-Mönnig, N.; Müller, J.; Neumann, C. Implications of Spatial Habitat Diversity on Diet Selection of European Bison and Przewalski’s Horses in a Rewilding Area. Diversity 2019, 11, 63.

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