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Using social network analysis of mixed-species groups in African savanna herbivores to assess how community structure responds to environmental change

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JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 15 Apr 2019
DatePublished (current) - 29 Jul 2019
Issue number1781
Volume374
Number of pages10
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The dynamics of wildlife populations often depend heavily on interspecific interactions and understanding the underlying principles can be an important step in designing conservation strategies. Behavioural ecological studies can here provide useful insights into the structure and function of communities and their likely response to environmental changes. In this study of the Masai Mara herbivore community, we use a social network approach to investigate social affinities between species and how these change over the year in response to seasonal changes in ecological conditions. We find that even though social networks were correlated across different ecological conditions, for half the species dyads in the community, the strength of social affinities responded to changes in rainfall and/or the presence of migratory wildebeest. Several species consequentially adopted more or less central positions in the network depending on ecological conditions. The findings point out interspecific social links that are likely to be attenuated or strengthened as a consequence of human-induced environmental changes, and therefore call for particular attention of conservation managers. The eco-evolutionary ramifications of the perturbations of social affinities still require further study

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© 2019 The Authors.

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