Serengeti real estate: Density vs. fitness-based indicators of lion habitat quality

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Habitat quality is typically inferred by assuming a direct relationship between consumer density and resource abundance, although it has been suggested that consumer fitness may be a more accurate measure of habitat quality. We examined density vs. fitness-based measures of habitat quality for lions in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. A 40-year average of female reproductive success (yearling cubs per female) was best explained by proximity to river confluences, whereas patterns of productivity (yearling cubs per km2) and adult female density (individuals per km2) were associated with more general measures of habitat quality and areas of shelter in poor habitat. This suggests that density may not accurately distinguish between high-quality 'source' areas and low-quality sites that merely provide refuges for effectively non-reproductive individuals. Our results indicate that density may be a misleading indicator of real estate value, particularly for populations that do not conform to an ideal free distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1060
Number of pages11
JournalEcology letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009


  • Habitat selection
  • Ideal despotic distribution
  • Ideal free distribution
  • Landscape
  • Lions
  • Resource selection
  • Scale
  • Serengeti National Park
  • Source-sink dynamics


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