Towns and trails drive carnivore movement behaviour, resource selection, and connectivity

Jesse Whittington, Mark Hebblewhite, Robin W. Baron, Adam T. Ford, John Paczkowski

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Background: Global increases in human activity threaten connectivity of animal habitat and populations. Protection and restoration of wildlife habitat and movement corridors require robust models to forecast the effects of human activity on movement behaviour, resource selection, and connectivity. Recent research suggests that animal resource selection and responses to human activity depend on their behavioural movement state, with increased tolerance for human activity in fast states of movement. Yet, few studies have incorporated state-dependent movement behaviour into analyses of Merriam connectivity, that is individual-based metrics of connectivity that incorporate landscape structure and movement behaviour. Methods: We assessed the cumulative effects of anthropogenic development on multiple movement processes including movement behaviour, resource selection, and Merriam connectivity. We simulated movement paths using hidden Markov movement models and step selection functions to estimate habitat use and connectivity for three landscape scenarios: reference conditions with no anthropogenic development, current conditions, and future conditions with a simulated expansion of towns and recreational trails. Our analysis used 20 years of grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) and gray wolf (Canis lupus) movement data collected in and around Banff National Park, Canada. Results: Carnivores increased their speed of travel near towns and areas of high trail and road density, presumably to avoid encounters with people. They exhibited stronger avoidance of anthropogenic development when foraging and resting compared to travelling and during the day compared to night. Wolves exhibited stronger avoidance of anthropogenic development than grizzly bears. Current development reduced the amount of high-quality habitat between two mountain towns by more than 35%. Habitat degradation constrained movement routes around towns and was most pronounced for foraging and resting behaviour. Current anthropogenic development reduced connectivity from reference conditions an average of 85%. Habitat quality and connectivity further declined under a future development scenario. Conclusions: Our results highlight the cumulative effects of anthropogenic development on carnivore movement behaviour, habitat use, and connectivity. Our strong behaviour-specific responses to human activity suggest that conservation initiatives should consider how proposed developments and restoration actions would affect where animals travel and how they use the landscape.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number17
    JournalMovement Ecology
    Volume10
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Dec 2022

    Keywords

    • Connectivity
    • Conservation
    • Corridor
    • Hidden Markov
    • Human development
    • Movement ecology
    • Resource selection
    • Step selection
    • Utilization distribution

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