Zoological Studies

Vol. 59, 2020

(update: 2020.03.16; 04.14)

Blue Sheep Resource Selection in Alpine Grasslands of a Western Himalayan Landscape – A Point Process Approach

Ankita Bhattacharya1, Nilanjan Chatterjee1, Gopal Singh Rawat1, and Bilal Habib1,*


1Scientist-E, Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun-248001, Uttarakhand, India. *Correspondence: Tel: +01352646283. E-mail: bh@wii.gov.in (Habib)
E-mail: ankita@wii.gov.in (Bhattacharya), nilanjan@wii.gov.in (Chatterjee); rawatg@wii.gov.in (Rawat)

Received 4 September2019 / Accepted 9 March 2020
Communicated by Teng-Chiu Lin

In-depth knowledge of distribution and factors influencing it is important for species conservation and management. Many forms of such data have led to the development of new analytical techniques for better interpretation. For mountainous terrains with certain limitations, species data are obtained in the presence-only form. The point process model is one of the recent approaches for modelling such data, taking care of pseudo-absences and spatial independence. For conservation in regions with limited resources and species with similar ecological  requirements, it is important to properly assess the extent of competition extent between wild and domestic species. We attempted to use point process framework to estimate the function of resource selection in blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur) in areas influenced by pastoralism in a western Himalayan region. Our study is the first attempt to use this framework to estimate resource selection on a dataset not collected using radio-telemetry. Spatial locations of blue sheep and livestock and a background sample of random points with six topographic covariates were used to model resource selection probability via intensity function. Blue sheep showed its predicted presence in areas with open vegetation coinciding with alpine meadows, influenced by southern aspect keeping a threshold distance of 600–1000 m from cliffs (escape terrain). Livestock, also showed presence probability in open vegetation, but at lower altitudes, mainly on valley floors. Our results suggest that though blue sheep continued to use the same habitat type after livestock arrival, they selected different resources based on topographic factors. Livestock were in areas where it was convenient for pastoralists to establish campsites and where nutritious grasses were present, making it feasible to graze. Thus, we argue that the probable shift in habitat for blue sheep from optimal areas occurs due to livestock presence, which might disturb their nutritional balance. Our study provides helpful insights for managing rangelands, which when tied with dietary patterns will give a better idea for proper conservation measures in the future.

Key words: Uttarakhand, Johar valley, Pastoralism, Pseudois nayaur, Mountain ungulates.

Citation: Bhattacharya A, Chatterjee N, Rawat GS, Habib B. 2020. Blue sheep resource selection in alpine grasslands of a western Himalayan landscape – a point process approach. Zool Stud 59:11. doi:10.6620/ZS.2020.59-11.

Supplementary Materials: Fig. S1 | Fig. S2 | Fig. S3 | Fig. S4 | Fig. S5 | Fig. S6 | Table S1