Use of resource selection functions to identify conservation corridors.

Published online
04 Nov 2009
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Chetkiewicz, C. L. B. & Boyce, M. S.
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Publication language
Alberta & Canada


Corridors are commonly used to connect fragments of wildlife habitat, yet the identification of conservation corridors typically neglects processes of habitat selection and movement for target organisms. New technologies and analytical tools make it possible to better integrate landscape patterns with behavioural processes. We illustrate the integration of resource selection functions (RSFs) and least-cost path (LCP) analyses for the purpose of corridor planning for two large carnivores. We used RSFs developed from Global Positioning System telemetry data to predict the seasonal distribution of two large carnivores: grizzly bears Ursus arctos and cougars Puma concolor. We then applied LCP analyses to identify potential corridors in two fragmented montane landscapes - Canmore and Crowsnest Pass - in Alberta, Canada. Grizzly bear habitat selection in both areas positively correlated with greenness in all seasons and soil wetness and proximity to water in the summer when both variables were associated with bear forage. During spring, grizzly bear occurrence in Canmore inversely correlated with road density. For cougars, habitat selection varied by region: it negatively correlated with road density in Canmore during non-winter and positively correlated with terrain ruggedness in Crowsnest Pass. Cougar occurrence during the non-winter season in Can more positively correlated with greenness. For each species, seasonal RSFs were used to develop a cost surface for LCP analyses to identify potential corridor locations in each study area. Overlaying the paths for the two species highlighted where the landscape could support corridors for both species and potential highway crossing zones. The telemetry data supported some of these modelled crossings. Synthesis and applications. We show how to integrate RSFs and least-cost modelling to identify corridors for conservation. We focus on two large carnivores in the Canadian Rocky Mountains to identify potential corridors in Canmore and provide a framework for corridor planning in Crowsnest. We suggest that our approach is applicable to many other target species in addition to large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes.

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