Seasonal selection of soil types and grass swards by roan antelope in a South African savanna.

I.M.A. Heitkönig, N. Owen-Smith

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Roan antelope are distributed mainly in regions characterized by infertile soils, offering food of low quality. We hypothesized that roan may select localities with higher soil nutrient levels and/or grass swards with more favourable properties in terms of food abundance or quality than generally available in those regions. Roan antelope were observed in a savanna region in South Africa where soils of widely varying nutrient status occurred. Roan favoured open grassland over wooded savanna areas. During the wet season, roan preferred sites with felsite-derived soil of intermediate soil nutrient status. Grasslands growing on nutrient enriched alluvial soils were preferred outside of the early wet season, although most of the favourable sward characteristics were present in other landscape units. Food quantity, rather than quality appeared to attract roan to foraging sites in the late wet and early dry seasons. Food quality appeared more important in the early wet and late dry seasons. The higher degree of clustering of leafy material within foraging swards seemed to be an additional discriminating factor. The factors governing the selection of foraging sites by roan did not seem notably different from those influencing other species of grazing ruminant, but roan nevertheless seemed tolerant of stemmy grasslands growing on nutrient richer substrates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-70
JournalAfrican Journal of Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Forage biomass
  • Forage quality
  • Landscape
  • Ungulates


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