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Data from: NDVI is not reliable as a surrogate of forage abundance for a large herbivore in tropical forest habitat

Citation

Gautam, Hansraj; Arulmalar, Evangeline; Kulkarni, Mihir; Vidya, T.N.C. (2020), Data from: NDVI is not reliable as a surrogate of forage abundance for a large herbivore in tropical forest habitat, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7r61gp6

Abstract

Remotely-sensed vegetation indices are increasingly being used in wildlife studies but field-based support for their utility as a measure of forage availability come largely from open-canopy habitats. We assessed whether normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) represents forage availability for Asian elephants in a southern Indian tropical forest. We found that the number of food species was a small percentage of all plant species. NDVI was not a good measure of food abundance in any vegetation category partly because of (a) small to moderate proportional abundances of food species relative to the total abundance of all species in that category (herbs and shrubs), (b) abundant overstorey vegetation resulting in low correlations between NDVI and food abundance, despite a high proportional abundance of food species and a concordance between total abundance and food species abundance (graminoids), and (c) the relevant variables measured and important as food at the ground level (count and GBH) not being related to primary productivity (trees and recruits). NDVI had a negative relationship with the total abundance of graminoids, which represent a bulk of elephant and other herbivore diet, because of negative interaction with other vegetation and canopy cover that positively explained NDVI. Spatially interpolated total graminoid abundance modelled from field data outperformed NDVI in predicting total graminoid abundance, although interpolation models of food graminoid abundance were not satisfactory. Our results reject the utility of NDVI in mapping elephant forage abundance in tropical forests, a finding that has implications for studies of other herbivores also.

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