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The effects of drought on Ngatatjara plant use: An evaluation of optimal foraging theory

Abstract

The different responses of plants to drought conditions are examined in the Western Desert of Australia to demonstrate the necessity of considering plant food availability prior to optimal foraging applications involving human hunter-gatherers. The correspondence of Ngatatjara dietary breadth changes to optimal foraging predictions is explained as an adaptive response to the unpredictable Western Desert rainfall. By minimizing the time allocated to food procurement, energy-efficient foraging reduces the risk involved in the exploitation of scattered, ephemeral water sources. Further applications of optimal foraging models to hunter-gatherers is one line of promising investigation to address behavioral variability among human foragers.

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Pate, D. The effects of drought on Ngatatjara plant use: An evaluation of optimal foraging theory. Hum Ecol 14, 95–115 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00889212

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Key words

  • optimal foraging
  • plant ecology
  • adaptive strategies
  • k- and r-selection
  • phreatophytes
  • limiting factors