Seasonal Variation in the Selection and Use of Habitats by Large Herbivores at Mole National Park, Ghana
There is scanty information on herbivore habitat ecology at Mole National Park (MNP) despite the fact that understanding habitat interactions, such as habitat selection and use, by large herbivores is fundamental for its management. Our aim was to determine the effects of seasonal variation on habitat selection and use by large herbivores at MNP, Ghana. Eight large herbivores were counted within transects, located in six habitat types, over one year and Jacobs’ selectivity index was used to calculate their selectivity of the habitat types. Six of the eight herbivores maintained their preferred habitats throughout all seasons or showed unpredictable seasonal pattern of habitat selectivity, but a seasonal change was clear for elephant (Loxodonta africana) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer). Elephant shifted from riverine forest to swamp habitats in the dry season but preferred both riverine and swamp in other seasons. Buffalo selected and used Anogeissus in all seasons but used swamp in the rainy season and riverine forest in the fire season. Kob (Kobus kob), warthog (Phacochoerus africanus) and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) appeared to minimise predation risk by avoiding the open savanna, waterbuck (Kobus defassa) preferred swamp in all seasons, whereas roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) and hartebeest (Alcelaphus bucelaphus) avoided swamp. All eight herbivores were less selective in the rainy season and more selective in the fire season. Shrinkage of habitat resources by fire increased selectivity, while post-fire regrowth in the rainy season increased forage resources and reduced selectivity. Of the factors that influenced the seasonal patterns of herbivore selectivity, only fire can be addressed by National Park management policies, particularly to determine which habitat types should be the focus of fire control operations.