Spatial heterogeneity in habitat selection: nest site selection by Greater Prairie-Chickens

TitleSpatial heterogeneity in habitat selection: nest site selection by Greater Prairie-Chickens
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMcNew, LB, Gregory, AJ, Sandercock, BK
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Pagination791 -801
Accession NumberKNZ001508
Keywordsgeographically weighted regression (GWR), greater prairie-chicken, Habitat selection, nest site selection, resource selection function (RSF), Tympanuchus cupido

Ecological relationships of animals and their environments are known to vary spatially and temporally across scales. However, common approaches for evaluating resource selection by animals assume that the processes of habitat selection are stationary across space. The assumption that habitat selection is spatially homogeneous may lead to biased inference and ineffective management. We present the first application of geographically weighted logistic regression to habitat selection by a wildlife species. As a case study, we examined nest site selection by greater prairie-chickens at 3 sites with different ecological conditions in Kansas to assess whether the relative importance of habitat features varied across space. We found that 1) nest sites were associated with habitat conditions at multiple spatial scales, 2) habitat associations across spatial scales were correlated, and 3) the influence of habitat conditions on nest site selection was spatially explicit. Post hoc analyses revealed that much of the spatial variability in habitat selection processes was explained at a regional scale. Moreover, habitat features at local spatial scales were more strongly associated with nest site selection in unfragmented grasslands managed intensively for cattle production than they were in fragmented grasslands within a matrix of farmland. Female prairie-chickens exhibited spatial variability in nest site selection at multiple spatial scales, suggesting plasticity in habitat selection behavior. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for spatial heterogeneity when evaluating the ecological effects of habitat components. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.