Generalizing and transferring a GIS-based species distribution model: from one hot spot to another

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Species distribution models (SDMs) are efficient simulations of the distribution of species across geographical space and help to understand the spatial patterns of biological diversity. However, they are not designed to provide a description of species habitats. Geographic information systems (GIS) combined with SDMs have been used to illustrate the distribution and infer the sustainability and capability of habitats, to explore ecological relationships, serve as selection of vegetation types, avoidance of habitat disturbed by humans, establishing factors like predation, and to identify landscapes favorable for establishment of a new population. Despite the large number of SDMs papers published within the last decade, the practical utility of these models in the conservation management field remain sparse. The main objective of this research was to develop techniques for habitat modelling based on presence/availability data depicted by illustrative habitat maps and to test the new model on different landscapes. Resource selection function was used to develop a new model for the Yellowstone bison herd from published habitat maps. The predictor variables within the new model were elevation, ruggedness, profile curvature, percent of tree cove, Horizontal and vertical distance to water. The new model was then transferred and tested with field data from the National Bison Range and Grand Teton bison herds. The top predictive model performed better for the Yellowstone and Grand Teton herds than for National Bison Range herd. The output of this research indicated that habitat maps could work as source of land use by wildlife through transference to new areas of interest especially when local use data is not available.




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