Jeff Stephens, ’09

Tingley, R., Herman, T., Pulsifer, M., McCurdy, D., & Stephens, J. (2010). Intra-Specific Niche Partitioning Obscures the Importance of Fine-Scale Habitat Data in Species Distribution Models. Biodiversity and Conservation, 19(9), 2455-2467.

Abstract: Geographic information systems (GIS) allow researchers to make cost-effective, spatially explicit predictions of species’ distributions across broad geographic areas. However, there has been little research on whether using fine-scale habitat data collected in the field could produce more robust models of species’ distributions. Here we used radio-telemetry data collected on a declining species, the North American wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), to test whether fine-scale habitat variables were better predictors of occurrence than land-cover and topography variables measured in a GIS. Patterns of male and female occurrence were similar in the spring; however, females used a much wider array of land-cover types and topographic positions in the summer and early fall, making it difficult for GIS-based models to accurately predict female occurrence at this time of year. Males on the other hand consistently selected flat, low-elevation, riparian areas throughout the year, and this consistency in turn led to the development of a strong GIS-based model. These results demonstrate the importance of taking a more sex-specific and temporally dynamic view of the environmental niche.

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