Understanding habitat use is essential for effective management and conservation. Mobile organisms in a community choose habitats in response to a variety of underlying factors including availability of resources, protection from predators, competition for space, and topographic dispersal barriers. This study investigates patterns of habitat use by the diverse ungulate community within the savanna ecosystem of Serengeti National Park, East Africa. Data were available from aerial surveys for eight wet season surveys from 1988-2006. Densities of ungulates were estimated for sample locations 5 km apart. Habitat use within the area is explored by identifying hotspots and coldspots of diversity across space in relation to habitat characteristics. Habitat features were selected to incorporate principal environmental and human influences.
Specific regions of the park, as well as locations outside the park boundary, support higher diversity. These are locations of potentially greater interactions among species and importance in management. The patterns of diversity appear consistent over time. However, use of space can vary with changing conditions, for instance following a strong El Nino that resulted in wet season floods. Identifying potential critical areas and characteristics of preferred habitat will contribute to our ability to predict how the ungulate community will respond to changes over time such as shifting rainfall patterns associated with climate change.