December 2018 – December 2022

South Africa

© CNRS

Context

Humans exert a growing influence over climate, characterized by rising temperatures and associated regional changes in weather patterns affecting the quantity and timing of precipitation. This is particularly preoccupying in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, such as southern African savannas, which have experienced a significant decline in rainfall, an increase in the severity of droughts and an extension of the dry season, and for which models generally predict that rainfall will continue decreasing. This increasing aridity is expected to alter the functioning of natural ecosystems. In this context, a key issue is how species interactions will evolve with changes in environmental conditions.

Spotted hyena, Kruger national park.

© IRD - Cécile Bégard

Objectives

The aim of the FUTURE-PRED project is to provide one of the first empirical study to measure the impacts of changes in environmental conditions on predator-prey interactions in a large mammalian system.

Arid and semi-arid ecosystems are characterized by two contrasting (wet and dry) seasons. As the dry season progresses, there are fewer leaves on woody plants, grass becomes sparser and shorter, and vegetation quality decreases, leading to two major changes likely to affect predator-prey interactions:

  • Large herbivores become in poorer body condition and hence are expected to become easier to catch by cursorial predators
  • Vegetation provides less concealment opportunities for ambush predators, which should then become less efficient hunters.

 

The project will first evaluate how environmental conditions affect the hunting success of the two most common African apex carnivores characterized by contrasting hunting modes (the African lion - ambush predator - and the spotted hyaena - cursorial predator -), thanks to GPS-collars.

Thanks to the field investigation of feeding sites, the scientists will further assess the type of prey eaten (prey species, age class, livestock vs. wild prey, body condition), the characteristics of the surrounding vegetation, and whether the contribution of scavenging to foraging tactics changes. Finally, they will investigate the consequences of increasing dryness and associated changes in carnivore hunting success on carnivore population dynamics.

 

FUTURE-PRED will be carried out in Hluhluwe National Park, in South Africa.

 

Partner

Laboratoire Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive (LBBE)

Project coordinator: Marion Valeix (LBBE)

 

Funding

French National Research Agency

 

Learn more.