Prioritizing Conservation of Ungulate Calving Resources in Multiple-Use LandscapesReport as inadecuate

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Conserving animal populations in places where human activity is increasing is an ongoing challenge in many parts of the world. We investigated how human activity interacted with maternal status and individual variation in behavior to affect reliability of spatially-explicit models intended to guide conservation of critical ungulate calving resources. We studied Rocky Mountain elk Cervus elaphus that occupy a region where 2900 natural gas wells have been drilled.

Methodology-Principal Findings

We present novel applications of generalized additive modeling to predict maternal status based on movement, and of random-effects resource selection models to provide population and individual-based inference on the effects of maternal status and human activity. We used a 2×2 factorial design treatment vs. control that included elk that were either parturient or non-parturient and in areas either with or without industrial development. Generalized additive models predicted maternal status parturiency correctly 93% of the time based on movement. Human activity played a larger role than maternal status in shaping resource use; elk showed strong spatiotemporal patterns of selection or avoidance and marked individual variation in developed areas, but no such pattern in undeveloped areas. This difference had direct consequences for landscape-level conservation planning. When relative probability of use was calculated across the study area, there was disparity throughout 72–88% of the landscape in terms of where conservation intervention should be prioritized depending on whether models were based on behavior in developed areas or undeveloped areas. Model validation showed that models based on behavior in developed areas had poor predictive accuracy, whereas the model based on behavior in undeveloped areas had high predictive accuracy.


By directly testing for differences between developed and undeveloped areas, and by modeling resource selection in a random-effects framework that provided individual-based inference, we conclude that: 1 amplified selection or avoidance behavior and individual variation, as responses to increasing human activity, complicate conservation planning in multiple-use landscapes, and 2 resource selection behavior in places where human activity is predictable or less dynamic may provide a more reliable basis from which to prioritize conservation action.

Author: Matthew R. Dzialak , Seth M. Harju, Robert G. Osborn, John J. Wondzell, Larry D. Hayden-Wing, Jeffrey B. Winstead, Stephen L. Web



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