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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Robert A. Barton

Willems, E.P., Barton, R.A. & Hill, R.A. (2009). Remotely sensed productivity, home range selection and local range use by an omnivorous primate. Behavioral Ecology 20(5): 985-992.

Author(s) from Durham


Remote sensing of the environment has proved an invaluable tool to the study of animal ecology at continental to regional scales. Here, we investigated the utility of a remotely sensed index of plant productivity (the normalized difference vegetation index [NDVI]) at a much finer spatial scale to account for the range use of an omnivorous primate (the vervet monkey: Cercopithecus aethiops) foraging in a multipredator environment. Vervet monkey home range location suggested that the animals prefer areas with elevated productivity and reduced seasonality as indexed by simple NDVI metrics. Within the annual home range area, monthly NDVI values were linearly related to field measurements of leaf cover and quadratically associated with vervet monkey food availability. Temporal variation in parameters of local range use could subsequently be expressed in terms of local NDVI: Monthly averaged day journey length showed a second-order polynomial response, and the amount of time the monkeys spent on the ground increased with group size whereas linearly decreasing with monthly NDVI. The first finding signifies a behavioral response to food availability, whereas the latter is interpreted as an antipredatory response to changes in habitat visibility, associated with leaf cover. As a spatially explicit and temporally varying measure of habitat structure and productivity, the NDVI thus offers considerable scope for studies of animal behavioral ecology not only at broad spatiotemporal scales but also at a much finer grained level of analysis.