Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya
Article first published online: 7 APR 2004
Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume 41, Issue 2, pages 344–354, April 2004
How to Cite
Mishra, C., Van Wieren, S. E., Ketner, P., Heitkönig, I. M. A. and Prins, H. H. T. (2004), Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41: 344–354. doi: 10.1111/j.0021-8901.2004.00885.x
- Issue published online: 7 APR 2004
- Article first published online: 7 APR 2004
- Received 29 December 2002; final copy received 15 November 2003
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- 1The issue of competition between livestock and wild herbivores has remained contentious. We studied the diets and population structures of the mountain ungulate bharal Pseudois nayaur and seven species of livestock to evaluate whether or not they compete for forage. The study was conducted in the high altitude Spiti Valley, Indian Trans-Himalaya.
- 2We compared resource (forage) availability and bharal population structures between rangelands differing in livestock density. Forage availability was estimated by clipping the standing graminoid biomass in sample plots. Livestock and bharal population structures were quantified through annual censuses. Seasonal diets of livestock were studied by direct observations, while those of bharal were quantified through feeding signs on vegetation.
- 3We found that livestock grazing causes a significant reduction in the standing crop of forage. Graminoid availability per unit livestock biomass was three times greater in a moderately grazed rangeland compared with an intensively grazed one.
- 4There was considerable diet overlap among the herbivore species. In summer, bharal, yak Bos grunniens, horse Equus caballus, cow Bos indicus, and dzomo (yak–cow hybrids) fed predominantly on graminoids, while donkey E. asinus, sheep Ovis aries, and goat Capra hircus, consumed both graminoids and herbs. The summer diet of bharal was a subset of the diets of three livestock species. In winter, depleted graminoid availability caused bharal, yak and horse to consume relatively more herbs, while the remaining livestock species fed predominantly on graminoids. Diet overlap was less in winter but, in both seasons, all important forage species in the bharal diet were consumed in substantial amounts by one or more species of livestock.
- 5Comparison of the population structures of bharal between two rangelands differing in livestock density by c. 30% yielded evidence of resource competition. In the intensively grazed rangeland, bharal density was 63% lower, and bharal population showed poorer performance (lower young : adult female ratios).
- 6Synthesis and applications. High diet overlap between livestock and bharal, together with density-dependent forage limitation, results in resource competition and a decline in bharal density. Under the present conditions of high livestock density and supplemental feeding, restricting livestock numbers and creating livestock-free areas are necessary measures for conserving Trans-Himalayan wild herbivores. Mediating competitive effects on bharal through supplemental feeding is not a feasible option.