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Global Ecology and Conservation


Patterns of habitat selection for sympatric urial Ovis vignei and Siberian ibex Capra sibirica are poorly known, in part because there are few places where such overlap exists. Using envelope modeling methodology, we analyzed location data of these species in the Hindu Kush range along the Wakhan Valley of the Wakhan National Park (10,950 km2) in northeastern Afghanistan, recorded during field surveys in April-May of 2011, 2015, and 2018. Distribution models showed significant ecological niche differences (P < 0.05) between urial (a true sheep species) and ibex (a true goat species) for most variables. Urial stayed at lower elevations compared to ibex, both species tended to avoid flat areas, but urial avoided slopes above 60 %.

Urial used southeast-facing slopes more, and west-facing slopes less, than available, whereas ibex had a slightly more than expected use of southwest-facing slopes. Urial preferred terrains with ruggedness index (∼20–40) of the values available (15–60), whereas ibex were more generalist in terrain preference. Urial utilized habitats closer to human activity areas compared to ibex. Both species utilized the higher quality vegetation areas (NDVI > 0) and showed the same avoidance of lower quality areas. Understanding selection criteria of habitat use by urial and ibex in Wakhan Valley, inhabited by over 14,000 people and their livestock (ca. 78,000), will enable adjustments to the protection schemes regarding the requirements of two key mountain ungulate species critical to the sustainability and conservation of this unique ecosystem. This type of information is very scarce in the literature for the sympatric mountain ungulates in Asia.





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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.