Individual-based modelling of elephant population dynamics using remote sensing to estimate food availability


Boult VL, Quaife T, Fishlock V, Moss CJ, Lee PC & Sibly RM (2018) Individual-based modelling of elephant population dynamics using remote sensing to estimate food availability. Ecological Modelling, 387, pp. 187-195.

Strategies for the conservation and management of many wild species requires an improved understanding of how population dynamics respond to changes in environmental conditions, including key drivers such as food availability. The development of mechanistic predictive models, in which the underlying processes of a system are modelled, enables a robust understanding of these demographic responses to dynamic environmental conditions. We present an individual-based energy budget model for a mega-herbivore, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), which relates remotely measured changes in food availability to vital demographic rates of birth and mortality. Elephants require large spaces over which to roam in search of seasonal food, and thus are vulnerable to environmental changes which limit space use or alter food availability. The model is constructed using principles of physiological ecology; uncertain parameter values are calibrated using approximate Bayesian computation. The resulting model fits observed population dynamics data well. The model has critical value in being able to project elephant population size under future environmental conditions and is applicable to other mammalian herbivores with appropriate parameterisation.

Approximate Bayesian computation; Elephants; Energy budget; Individual-based modelling; Population dynamics; Remote sensing;

Ecological Modelling: Volume 387

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date10/11/2018
Publication date online24/09/2018
Date accepted by journal12/09/2018


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