Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy Analysis to Predict Diet Composition of a Mountain Ungulate Species

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The diet composition of ungulates is important to understand not only their impact on vegetation, but also to understand the consequences of natural and human‐driven environmental changes on the foraging behavior of these mammals. In this work, we evaluated the use of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy analysis (NIRS), a quick, economic and non‐destructive method, to assess the diet composition of the Pyrenean chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica. Fecal samples (n = 192) were collected from two chamois populations in the French and Spanish Pyrenees. Diet composition was initially assessed by fecal cuticle microhistological analysis (CMA) and categorized into four functional groups, namely: woody, herbaceous, graminoid and Fabaceae plants. Regressions of modified partial least squares and several combinations of scattering correction and derivative treatments were tested. The results showed that models based on the second derivative processing obtained the higher determination coefficient for woody, herbaceous and graminoid plants (R 2CAL, coefficient of determination in calibration, ranged from 0.86 to 0.91). The Fabaceae group, however, was predicted with lower accuracy (R 2CAL = 0.71). Even though an agreement between NIRS and CMA methods was confirmed by a Bland–Altman analysis, confidence limits of agreement differed by up to 25%. Our results support the viability of fecal NIRS analysis to study spatial and temporal variations of the Pyrenean chamois’ diets in summer and winter when differences in the consumption of woody and annual plants are the greatest. This new use for the NIRS technique would be useful to assess the consequences of global change on the feeding behavior of this mountain ungulate and also in other ungulate counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1449
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Diet composition
  • Fecal NIRS
  • Foraging ecology
  • Global change
  • Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica


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