Date of this Version
Journal of Zoology 293 (2014) 134–141.
Home range size of terrestrial animals may be influenced by spatiotemporal dynamics of resources. However, little is known regarding the effects of spatiotemporal resource availability on semi-aquatic central place foragers such as the American beaver Castor canadensis. From January 2011 to April 2012, 26 beavers at 11 wetlands at Redstone Arsenal in north-central Alabama, USA, were captured and radio-tracked using radio telemetry. The objectives of this study were to test the predictions of three hypotheses: (1) the resource dispersion hypothesis: more spatially dispersed resources throughout a landscape increase home range sizes; (2) the temporal resource variability hypothesis: more temporally variable resources result in decreases in home range sizes; (3) the habitat productivity hypothesis: increases in habitat productivity lead to decreases in home range sizes. Twenty-three of 26 radio-tagged beavers had well-bounded home ranges, and their home range sizes were positively related to the diversity of land cover within home ranges as predicted by the resource dispersion hypothesis. Furthermore, home range sizes of 26 beavers, including three seasonally dispersing beavers, decreased with increasing seasonal variability of within-home-range normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), supporting the prediction of the resource heterogeneity hypothesis. Home range sizes of American beavers increased with increasing total NDVI and proportions of woody plant cover within home ranges probably to avoid overexploitation of woody plants. Our results suggest that the combination of resource quantity, spatial distribution and seasonal variation of resources influences movements and home ranges of central place foragers.