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Semenzato, Paola (2017) Movement ecology of female alpine ibex (Capra ibex): influence of resources, climate, and reproductive constraints. [Ph.D. thesis]

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Abstract (english)

There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change on Alpine ecosystems. Animal populations, and in particular herbivores, can be affected directly, through modifications of the environmental temperature, and indirectly, through alteration of both distribution and phenology of plant communities. Understanding the behavioral strategies and tactics that populations and individuals use to buffer climatic variability and its impacts are particularly relevant in order to evaluate their vulnerability to climate change and develop incisive management and conservation actions. This dissertation investigates how females of Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) taken as a model for specialized Alpine large herbivore species, shape their behavior to deal with environmental and climatic variation and reproductive constraints during summer, a crucial period for the fitness of females of a capital breeder species. For this purpose, I used GPS locations and activity data of 22 females monitored in the Marmolada massif (northeastern Italian Alps) from 2010 to 2016. I tested for differences in space use and activity patterns of female ibex at different temporal scales (annual, intra-seasonal and hourly), in relation with changes in temperature, habitat type, and food resource availability -productivity (NDVI) and green up (?NDVI) of vegetation-. In addition, I evaluated anti-predator behavior contrasting the tactics of use of refuge areas and habitat types of females with different reproductive status. My findings showed how female ibex vary the use of space, habitat selection and rhythms of activity in a continuous trade off that allow them to fulfill different physiological needs in response to variation in environmental and climatic conditions, and under reproductive constraint. Ibex females responded to the altitudinal gradient in vegetation productivity with an altitudinal shift in spring and summer, to exploit the vegetation in earlier phenological stages. At the same time, females avoided thermal stress and maintained constant the daily foraging time through adjustments in circadian activity rhythms and altitudinal shifts. Moreover, during the reproductive period females with kids modified their movement patterns, feeding activity, and habitat use cope with increased energetic demands and the need of protecting kids with their limited locomotion capacity. My results have shown that the spatial behaviors that act at different scales were an effective strategy to optimize thermoregulation needs and forage acquisition while reducing predation risk. This thesis enriches knowledge on the influence of resources, climate, and reproductive constraints on behavioral strategies and tactics of female ibex. It represents the first attempt for this species, to my knowledge, to describe these behavioral responses as part of a complex trade-off mechanism, which occurs across different temporal scales, highlighting a presence of behavioral plasticity in ibex females. Such behavioral plasticity may allow them to buffer the environmental variations associated with current climate change.

Abstract (italian)

Risulta ormai evidente come il cambiamento climatico in atto stia avendo un forte impatto sull’ecosistema alpino. Le popolazioni animali, ed in particolare su gli erbivori possono essere influenzati direttamente, delle variazioni delle temperature ambientali, e indirettamente, dalle alterazioni nella distribuzione e nelle fasi fenologiche della vegetazione. La comprensione delle strategie comportamentali, utilizzate dagli animali per rispondere al cambiamento climatico è particolarmente rilevante per valutare la loro vulnerabilità a tali modifiche, permettendo così di sviluppare azioni di gestione e conservazione efficaci.
Questa tesi esamina come le femmine di stambecco Capra ibex (prese come specie modello specializzata all’ambiente alpino di alta quota) variano il loro comportamento spaziale e i ritmi di attività in risposta ai cambiamenti ambientali e climatici, nonché ai vincoli riproduttivi durante il periodo primaverile e estivo. Per raggiungere gli obiettivi della mia tesi, ho utilizzato le localizzazioni raccolte attraverso collari GPS e i dati di attività del sensore di movimento posizionato sui collari di 22 femmine monitorate dal 2010 al 2016 nel massiccio della Marmolada (Alpi nord-orientali). Ho analizzato le variazioni a diverse scale temporali (annuale, intra - stagionale e oraria) del comportamento spaziale e dei pattern di attività delle femmine di stambecco in relazione ai cambiamenti nella disponibilità delle risorse trofiche - produttività (NDVI) e green-up (?NDVI) della vegetazione -, della temperatura ambientale e all’uso dei diversi tipi di habitat. Inoltre, ho valutato il comportamento anti-predatorio confrontato l'uso delle aree di rifugio delle femmine a diverso stato riproduttivo. I risultati dimostrano come le femmine di stambecco abbiano variato l'uso dello spazio, della selezione degli habitat e dei ritmi di attività, in un meccanismo di trade-off, per soddisfare diverse esigenze fisiologiche in risposta alla variazione delle condizioni ambientali, climatiche e al loro stato riproduttivo. Durante la stagione primaverile e estiva le femmine di stambecco hanno risposto al gradiente altitudinale della produttività della vegetazione con uno spostamento verso le quote più alte, per sfruttare la vegetazione nei primi stadi fenologici. Allo stesso tempo, hanno evitato lo stress termico e hanno mantenuto costante l'attività di alimentazione regolando, a scala giornaliera, i ritmi di attività e gli spostamenti altitudinali.
Lo studio ha premesso di descrivere come la variazione circadiana e stagionale dell’uso dei diversi tipi di habitat rappresenti una strategia ottimale di uso dello spazio, minimizzando lo stress termico e massimizzando l'acquisizione delle risorse trofiche. Inoltre è stato messo in luce come, durante il periodo riproduttivo le femmine con il piccolo modifichino il loro comportamento spaziale e l’attività di alimentazione, variando altresì l’uso dell’habitat in risposta all'aumento delle esigenze energetiche e delle necessità di protezione dei piccoli, nonché la loro minore capacità di locomozione. I risultati hanno dimostrato come strategie comportamentali che agiscono a diverse scale rappresentano un modo efficace per ottimizzare le esigenze di termoregolazione, l'acquisizione di risorse alimentari e per ridurre il rischio di predazione.
Questa tesi arricchisce le conoscenze sull'influenza delle risorse trofiche, del clima e dei vincoli riproduttivi sulle strategie e tattiche comportamentali delle femmine di stambecco. Essa rappresenta il primo tentativo per questa specie, secondo le mie conoscenze, di descrivere queste risposte comportamentali come parte di un complesso trade-off che si verifica a diverse scale temporali, evidenziando una presenza di plasticità comportamentale nelle femmine di stambecco. Tale plasticità comportamentale potrebbe consentire a questa specie di tamponare le variazioni ambientali associate agli attuali cambiamenti climatici.

EPrint type:Ph.D. thesis
Tutor:Ramanzin, Maurizio
Ph.D. course:Ciclo 30 > Corsi 30 > SCIENZE ANIMALI E AGROALIMENTARI
Data di deposito della tesi:15 January 2018
Anno di Pubblicazione:15 January 2017
Key Words:Stambecco delle Alpi, Capra Ibex, Termoregolazione, Comportamento anti-predatorio, Migrazione Altitudinale, Uso dell’habitat, Cambiamento Climatico, Plasticità Comportamentale, Ecologia Del Movimento, Attività Alpine Ibex, Capra Ibex, Thermoregulation, Anti-Predatory Behavior, Altitudinal Migration, Habitat Use, Clime Change, Plasticity Behavior, Movement Ecology, Activity
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 07 - Scienze agrarie e veterinarie > AGR/19 Zootecnica speciale
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Agronomia Animali Alimenti Risorse Naturali e Ambiente
Codice ID:10976
Depositato il:25 Oct 2018 17:01
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