Seeds redistribution in sand dunes: A basis for coexistence of two rodent species

G. Ben-Natan, Z. Abramsky, B. P. Kotler, J. S. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

Spatial and temporal heterogeneity is a major factor structuring communities and contributing to coexistence of the species they contain. In this study we examine a critical aspect of environmental heterogeneity that is assumed to promote coexistence in two gerbil species of the Western Negev Desert. Previous studies assumed that temporal partitioning, in activity time, is the result of daily redistribution of seeds that the dominant species is the first to utilize while the sub-ordinate and efficient species is being pushed to use the later and poorer part of the night. We tested the assumption that daily afternoon winds generating spatial and temporal heterogeneity in seed availability by the redistribution of sand and seeds. This was done by comparing plots experiencing normal wind condition with manipulated plots where wind action was diminished by a shade-cloth fence. Our results show that considerable amount of sand and seeds are redistributing regularly on a time scale of a single day. Our results also show that gerbil foraging behavior is strongly related to the pattern of the redistribution dynamics of the seeds. When we prevented redistribution of seeds, gerbil foraging activity was reduced considerably. However, both seed redistribution and gerbil activity did not change much on control plots. Furthermore, the two gerbil species responded differently to the reduction in seed redistribution. The larger Gerbillus pyramidum was shown to be more sensitive to the reduction than the smaller G. a. allenbyi. Daily variability in the availability of seed resources is probably the niche axis which, together with the trade-off in foraging efficiency of the species, forms the mechanism for the coexistence of the two gerbil species in the semi-stabilized sands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-335
Number of pages11
JournalOikos
Volume105
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2004

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