Environmental factors influencing spotted hyena and lion population biomass across Africa

Angharad Jones, Simon Blockley, Danielle Schreve, Chris Carbone

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The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta Erxleben) and the lion (Panthera leo Linnaeus) are two of the most abundant and charismatic large mammalian carnivores in Africa and yet both are experiencing declining populations and significant pressures from environmental change. However, with few exceptions, most studies have focused on influences upon spotted hyena and lion populations within individual sites, rather than synthesizing data from multiple locations. This has impeded the identification of over-arching trends behind the changing biomass of these large predators. Using partial least squares regression models, influences upon population biomass were therefore investigated, focusing upon prey biomass, temperature, precipitation, and vegetation cover. Additionally, as both species are in competition with one other for food, the influence of competition and evidence of environmental partitioning were assessed. Our results indicate that spotted hyena biomass is more strongly influenced by environmental conditions than lion, with larger hyena populations in areas with warmer winters, cooler summers, less drought, and more semi-open vegetation cover. Competition was found to have a negligible influence upon spotted hyena and lion populations, and environmental partitioning is suggested, with spotted hyena population biomass greater in areas with more semi-open vegetation cover. Moreover, spotted hyena is most heavily influenced by the availability of medium-sized prey biomass, whereas lion is influenced more by large size prey biomass. Given the influences identified upon spotted hyena populations in particular, the results of this study could be used to highlight populations potentially at greatest risk of decline, such as in areas with warming summers and increasingly arid conditions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEcology and Evolution
Early online date29 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Nov 2021

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