DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.14073 ISSN: 0021-8790

Environmental drivers of global variation in home range size of terrestrial and marine mammals

Maarten J. E. Broekman, Jelle P. Hilbers, Selwyn Hoeks, Mark A. J. Huijbregts, Aafke M. Schipper, Marlee A. Tucker
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


As animal home range size (HRS) provides valuable information for species conservation, it is important to understand the driving factors of HRS variation. It is widely known that differences in species traits (e.g. body mass) are major contributors to variation in mammal HRS. However, most studies examining how environmental variation explains mammal HRS variation have been limited to a few species, or only included a single (mean) HRS estimate for the majority of species, neglecting intraspecific HRS variation. Additionally, most studies examining environmental drivers of HRS variation included only terrestrial species, neglecting marine species.

Using a novel dataset of 2800 HRS estimates from 586 terrestrial and 27 marine mammal species, we quantified the relationships between HRS and environmental variables, accounting for species traits.

Our results indicate that terrestrial mammal HRS was on average 5.3 times larger in areas with low human disturbance (human footprint index [HFI] = 0), compared to areas with maximum human disturbance (HFI = 50). Similarly, HRS was on average 5.4 times larger in areas with low annual mean productivity (NDVI = 0), compared to areas with high productivity (NDVI = 1). In addition, HRS increased by a factor of 1.9 on average from low to high seasonality in productivity (standard deviation (SD) of monthly NDVI from 0 to 0.36). Of these environmental variables, human disturbance and annual mean productivity explained a larger proportion of HRS variance than seasonality in productivity. Marine mammal HRS decreased, on average, by a factor of 3.7 per 10°C decline in annual mean sea surface temperature (SST), and increased by a factor of 1.5 per 1°C increase in SST seasonality (SD of monthly values). Annual mean SST explained more variance in HRS than SST seasonality. Due to the small sample size, caution should be taken when interpreting the marine mammal results.

Our results indicate that environmental variation is relevant for HRS and that future environmental changes might alter the HRS of individuals, with potential consequences for ecosystem functioning and the effectiveness of conservation actions.

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