Limited spatial response to direct predation risk by African herbivores following predator reintroduction

Andrew B. Davies, Craig J. Tambling, Graham I.H. Kerley, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Predators affect ecosystems not only through direct mortality of prey, but also through risk effects on prey behavior, which can exert strong influences on ecosystem function and prey fitness. However, how functionally different prey species respond to predation risk and how prey strategies vary across ecosystems and in response to predator reintroduction are poorly understood. We investigated the spatial distributions of six African herbivores varying in foraging strategy and body size in response to environmental factors and direct predation risk by recently reintroduced lions in the thicket biome of the Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa, using camera trap surveys, GPS telemetry, kill site locations and Light Detection and Ranging. Spatial distributions of all species, apart from buffalo, were driven primarily by environmental factors, with limited responses to direct predation risk. Responses to predation risk were instead indirect, with species distributions driven by environmental factors, and diel patterns being particularly pronounced. Grazers were more responsive to the measured variables than browsers, with more observations in open areas. Terrain ruggedness was a stronger predictor of browser distributions than was vegetation density. Buffalo was the only species to respond to predator encounter risk, avoiding areas with higher lion utilization. Buffalo therefore behaved in similar ways to when lions were absent from the study area. Our results suggest that direct predation risk effects are relatively weak when predator densities are low and the time since reintroduction is short and emphasize the need for robust, long-term monitoring of predator reintroductions to place such events in the broader context of predation risk effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5728-5748
Number of pages21
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Antipredator behavior
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • Light Detection and Ranging
  • Panthera leo
  • camera traps
  • habitat selection
  • landscape of fear
  • lion
  • predator reintroductions
  • predator–prey interactions
  • thicket biome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Limited spatial response to direct predation risk by African herbivores following predator reintroduction'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this