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Ecology. 2010 Oct;91(10):2898-907.

Allometric scaling predicts preferences for burned patches in a guild of East African grazers.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


The high herbivore diversity in savanna systems has been attributed to the inherent spatial and temporal heterogeneity related to the quantity and quality of food resources. Allometric scaling predicts that smaller-bodied grazers rely on higher quality forage than larger-bodied grazers. We replicated burns at varying scales in an East African savanna and measured visitation by an entire guild of larger grazers ranging in size from hare to elephant. We found a strong negative relationship between burn preference and body mass with foregut fermenters preferring burns to a greater degree than hindgut fermenters. Burns with higher quality forage were preferred more than burns with lower quality forage by small-bodied grazers, while the opposite was true for large-bodied grazers. Our results represent some of the first experimental evidence demonstrating the importance of body size in predicting how large herbivores respond to fire-induced changes in plant quality and quantity.

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