Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Biology

Department name when degree awarded

Wildlife Biology

Advisor/Chair:

Eric M. Gese

Abstract

Water is essential to life. Three general forms of water exist: pre-formed water that is available in food, metabolic water that is created as a byproduct of life processes (e.g., metabolism of fat or breakdown of carbohydrates), and free water (i.e., water available for drinking). As humans settle arid environments, the addition of man-made free water sources (e.g., sewage ponds, catchment ponds) often occurs. In addition, a tool commonly used to increase the abundance or distribution of wildlife species in desert environments is the addition of water sources, usually specifically designed to benefit game species like bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and chukar partridge (Alectoris chukar). In recent decades, some scientists have argued that adding water sources to deserts may have little to no effect on desert species because they are adapted to living in desert conditions, and have thus evolved to obtain their water needs in preformed and/or metabolic form. Scientists have also suggested that adding water sources to desert environments may actually harm some individual species and alter the arraignments of groups of similarly related species, known as communities. I conducted four studies at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground to determine if man-made water sources have an influence on the rodent community, jackrabbits, and the canid community at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. I found that turning off water sources had no effect on abundance of rodent communities or jackrabbits. I found that a portion of coyotes used water sources and coyotes were only slightly less common near water sources once they were turned off. In addition, a portion of coyotes rarely or never drink from water sources and that coyotes did not leave their territories if water sources accessible to them were turned off. My final study revealed that turning off water sources did not influence kit fox survival or abundance, and that kit fox territories differed from areas associated with water sources in several key environmental characterizes, which may suggest that areas associated with water sources were not historically used by kit foxes. In summary, these findings suggest that water developments have little impact on the species that I studied.

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