Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Apply water to vegetation to increase food availability during drought Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • One study evaluated the effects on mammals of applying water to vegetation to increase food availability during drought. This study was in the USA.




Supporting evidence from individual studies


A controlled, before-and-after study in 2005 in a desert enclosure in Arizona, USA (Wilson et al. 2010) found that watering scrub during drought increased its use for feeding by adult Sonoran pronghorns Antilocapra american sonoriensis. In winter (January–March), before plots were watered, pronghorns selected plots to be watered and unwatered in proportion to their availability. After watering commenced, pronghorns fed more in watered plots than their availability in spring (April–June), summer (July–September) and autumn (October–December). Use of watered plots was highest in autumn, when 48% of observations were in these plots, which covered 5% cover of the enclosure. Seven adult pronghorns were held in a 130-ha enclosure. Eight desert scrub plots, c.8,000 m2 each, were watered at least once every two weeks from April–December 2005, by applying c.13 cm of water. Autumn rainfall during the study period was low (4 mm, compared to average of 16 mm). Pronghorn feeding area selection was determined by watching from a partially concealed viewpoint, from 23 January to 2 December 2005. Observations were recorded at 2-minute intervals, four to five days/week during either first light to noon or noon to last light, giving 38,900 individual observations.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.