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Step selection techniques uncover the environmental predictors of space use patterns in flocks of Amazonian birds

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      Abstract

      1. Anthropogenic actions cause rapid ecological changes, meaning that animals have to respond before they have time to adapt. Tools to quantify emergent spatial patterns from animal-habitat interaction mechanisms are vital for predicting the population-level effects of such changes. 2. Environmental perturbations are particularly prevalent in the Amazon rainforest, and have a profound effect on fragmentation-sensitive insectivorous bird flocks. Therefore it is important to be able to predict the effects of such changes on the flocks' space-use patterns. 3. We use a step selection function (SSF) approach to uncover environmental drivers behind movement choices. This is used to construct a mechanistic model, from which we derive predicted utilization distributions (home ranges) of flocks. 4. We show that movement decisions are significantly influenced by canopy height and topography, but not resource depletion and renewal. We quantify the magnitude of these effects and demonstrate that they are helpful for understanding various heterogeneous aspects of space use. We compare our results to recent analytic derivations of space use, demonstrating that they are only accurate when assuming that there is no persistence in the animals' movement. 5. Our model can be translated into other environments or hypothetical scenarios, such as those given by proposed future anthropogenic actions, to make predictions of spatial patterns in bird flocks. Furthermore, our approach is quite general, so could be used to predict the effects of habitat changes on spatial patterns for a wide variety of animal communities.

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        Kernel Methods for Estimating the Utilization Distribution in Home-Range Studies

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          Human alteration of the global environment has triggered the sixth major extinction event in the history of life and caused widespread changes in the global distribution of organisms. These changes in biodiversity alter ecosystem processes and change the resilience of ecosystems to environmental change. This has profound consequences for services that humans derive from ecosystems. The large ecological and societal consequences of changing biodiversity should be minimized to preserve options for future solutions to global environmental problems.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1002/ece3.1306
            1403.6869

            Evolutionary Biology

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