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Habitat selection by a large herbivore at multiple spatial and temporal scales is primarily governed by food resources
Ecography - Pattern and Process in Ecology, vol. 40, no. 8, pp. 1014-1027
Habitat selection can be considered as a hierarchical process in which animals satisfy their habitat requirements at different ecological scales. Theory predicts that spatial and temporal scales should co‐vary in most ecological processes and that the most limiting factors should drive habitat selection at coarse ecological scales, but be less influential at finer scales. Using detailed location data on roe deer Capreolus capreolus inhabiting the Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany, we investigated habitat selection at several spatial and temporal scales. We tested 1) whether time‐varying patterns were governed by factors reported as having the largest effects on fitness, 2) whether the trade‐off between forage and predation risks differed among spatial and temporal scales and 3) if spatial and temporal scales are positively associated. We analysed the variation in habitat selection within the landscape and within home ranges at monthly intervals, with respect to land‐cover type and proxys of food and cover over seasonal and diurnal temporal scales. The fine‐scale temporal variation follows a nycthemeral cycle linked to diurnal variation in human disturbance. The large‐scale variation matches seasonal plant phenology, suggesting food resources being a greater limiting factor than lynx predation risk. The trade‐off between selection for food and cover was similar on seasonal and diurnal scale. Habitat selection at the different scales may be the consequence of the temporal variation and predictability of the limiting factors as much as its association with fitness. The landscape of fear might have less importance at the studied scale of habitat selection than generally accepted because of the predator hunting strategy. Finally, seasonal variation in habitat selection was similar at the large and small spatial scales, which may arise because of the marked philopatry of roe deer. The difference is supposed to be greater for wider ranging herbivores.