Data from: Food quality and quantity is more important in explaining foraging of an intermediate-sized mammalian herbivore than predation risk or competition
Weterings, Martijn J.A. et al. (2019), Data from: Food quality and quantity is more important in explaining foraging of an intermediate-sized mammalian herbivore than predation risk or competition, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.95r0850
During times of high activity by predators and competitors, herbivores may be forced to forage in patches of low-quality food. However, the relative importance in determining where and what herbivores forage still remains unclear, especially for small and intermediate-sized herbivores.
Our objective was to test the relative importance of predator and competitor activity, and forage quality and quantity on the proportion of time spent in a vegetation type and the proportion of time spent foraging by the intermediate-sized herbivore European hare (Lepus europaeus). We studied red fox (Vulpes vulpes) as a predator species and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) as a competitor.
We investigated the time spent at a location and foraging time of hare using GPS with accelerometers. Forage quality and quantity was analysed based on hand-plucked samples of a selection of the locally most important plant species in the diet of hare. Predator and competitor activity was investigated using a network of camera traps.
Hares spent a higher proportion of time in vegetation types that contained a higher percentage of fibres (i.e., NDF). Besides, hares spent a higher proportion of time in vegetation types that contained relatively low food quantity and quality of forage (i.e., high percentage of fibres) during days that foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were more active. Also during days that rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were more active, hares spent a higher proportion of time foraging in vegetation types that contained a relatively low quality of forage.
Although predation risk affected space use and foraging behaviour, and competition affected foraging behaviour, our study shows that food quality and quantity more strongly affected space use and foraging behaviour than predation risk or competition. It seems that we need to reconsider the relative importance of the landscape of food in a world of fear and competition.