Metrics for studies of resource selection

Steven W. Buskirk, Joshua J. Millspaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Resource availability and resource use are 2 key concepts in studies of resource selection. Although equal accessibility to resources is one component defining resource availability, we rarely know what restricts access to resources. Consequently for spatially distributed resources, the animal's use of space in association with the occurrence of resources is a frequent basis for inferring resource use and testing for resource selection. For many resources, occurrence can be defined for the population or the individual animal and requires that researchers specify the spatial extent of resources an animal might use during the time interval of study (e.g., the "choice set"). Often the occurrence of resources is defined at multiple scales, which facilitates understanding hierarchical selection patterns. We discuss numerous factors and criteria that should be considered when delineating the area an animal might use during a period of interest. New analytical approaches to resource selection, including resource utilization functions (RUF) and discrete choice modeling, help address some of the issues of defining availability and dealing with the behaviors associated with resource use. A currency of use is a measure of the investment made by an animal in securing resources, avoiding loss of resources, or otherwise optimizing fitness. Common currencies used by researchers include time spent or distance traveled in a cover type, use of event sites (e.g., nest sites, roosting sites, den sites), or amounts of different kinds of foods consumed. Less common, but potentially highly informative, are such currencies as energy expended or predation risk or other risk incurred. Simulation of animal movements interspersed with diel resting periods, through habitat types with activity-dependent energy expenditure and habitat-specific predation risk showed that choice of a currency of use strongly influences inferences about habitat selection. We argue that perhaps the most informative currency of use would be increased risk to fitness accepted by an animal. Although fairly simple conceptually, such application of risk assessment faces formidable empirical challenges and is a worthy goal for the next generation of researchers of animal resource selection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-366
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Wildlife Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2006


  • Availability
  • Currencies of use
  • Discrete choice analysis
  • Resource selection
  • Risk assessment


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