The Open Environmental Research Journal

Formerly: The Open Ecology Journal

ISSN: 2590-2776 ― Volume 16, 2023

Dynamics of an Insularized and Compressed Impala Population: Rainfall, Temperature and Density Influences

The Open Ecology Journal, 2012, 5: 1-17

Joseph O. Ogutu, Hans-Peter Piepho, Erustus Kanga

University of Hohenheim, Institute for crop science, Fruwirthstrasse 23, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany.

Electronic publication date 6/4/2012
[DOI: 10.2174/1874213001205010001]


Understanding the relative contributions of different life history stages to changes in population abundance is basic to understanding population dynamics and effective management and conservation of large herbivores. We examined temporal variation in natality, recruitment and mortality rates and sex ratio in a compressed and insularized impala population monitored daily for 211 months (17.6 years), spanning June 1994-December 2011. We related the rates to contemporaneous variation in immediate and cumulative past rainfall, temperature and prior abundance. Over the course of this 17.6-year period, the population size fluctuated between 22 and 52 individuals. A total of 213 births, mortality of 96 lambs, 33 males and 58 females; recruitment of 55 juveniles into the female category and 40 juveniles into the male category were recorded. Natural mortality averaged 2.3% of the population annually with lambs contributing 52.3%, males 26.6% and females 21.2%. Lamb mortality was highest in dry months, implicating food scarcity, but female mortality peaked in the wettest months and in hot, wet seasons, suggesting increased susceptibility to diseases and pathogens in hot, damp weather conditions. Male, female and overall population mortality rates were positively correlated with prior abundance, implicating negative density feedbacks on population growth. Births were aseasonal and were surprisingly negatively correlated with rainfall around the time of conception and during wet phases of a regional 5-year rainfall cycle. This implies, quite surprisingly, that high rainfall depressed reproductive success in impalas. Juvenile recruitment increased with increasing 5-month running mean of monthly rainfall but declined (i) at excessively high values of annual rainfall, (ii) with increasing prior density and (iii) in hot, dry seasons. This implicates heightened competition for limiting resources and nutritional stress at high density, increased vulnerability to diseases and pathogens at high rainfall and adverse consequences of habitat desiccation and reduced activity levels at high ambient temperatures.

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