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Ecology. 2007 Dec;88(12):3192-201.

Lifetime reproductive success and composition of the home range in a large herbivore.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon SK S7N5E2, Canada.


The relationship between individual performance and nonrandom use of habitat is fundamental to ecology; however, empirical tests of this relationship remain limited, especially for higher orders of selection like that of the home range. We quantified the association between lifetime reproductive success (LRS) and variables describing lifetime home ranges during the period of maternal care (spring to autumn) for 77 female roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) at Trois-Fontaines, Champagne-Ardenne, France (1976-2000). We maintained population growth rate (adjusted to account for removals of non-focal animals) near rmax, which enabled us to define the fitness-habitat relationship in the absence of density effects. Using a negative binomial model, we showed that a roe deer's incorporation into its home range of habitat components important to food, cover, and edge (meadows, thickets, and increased density of road allowances) was significantly related to LRS. Further, LRS decreased with increasing age of naturally reclaimed meadows at the time of a deer's birth, which may have reflected a cohort effect related to, but not entirely explained by, a decline in quality of meadows through time. Predictive capacity of the selected model, estimated as the median correlation (rs) between predicted and observed LRS among deer of cross-validation samples, was 0.55. The strength of this relationship suggests that processes like selection of the site of a home range during dispersal may play a more important role in determining fitness of individuals than previously thought. Individual fitness of highly sedentary income breeders with high reproductive output such as roe deer should be more dependent on home range quality during the period of maternal care compared to capital breeders with low reproductive output. Identification of the most important habitat attributes to survival and reproduction at low density (low levels of intraspecific competition) may prove useful for defining habitat value ("intrinsic habitat value").

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