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Scale dependency and functional response in moose habitat selection

Herfindal, Ivar, Tremblay, Jean-Pierre, Hansen, Brage B., Solberg, Erling J., Heim, Morten, Sæther, Bernt-Erik
Ecography 2009 v.32 no.5 pp. 849-859
Alces alces, animals, anthropogenic activities, coasts, forage, functional response, gender differences, habitats, islands, landscapes, prediction, radio telemetry, selection response, Norway
Habitat selection can be influenced by the distribution of the habitat types in the landscape as well as net gain in visiting patches of resources, causing individual variation in habitat selection. Moreover, the hypothesis of functional response in habitat selection predicts that the degree of selection of a resource depends on its relative availability. We used radio-telemetry data from individual moose on an island off the coast of northern Norway to evaluate whether the selection of habitat types at the landscape scale differed from the choice of habitat types within the home range, and investigated the functional response in habitat selection by relating individual habitat selection to home range characteristics. At the landscape scale, moose selected for habitat types that provided both good forage and cover, with small differences between sex and age groups. At the home range scale, all individuals selected habitat types that were associated with cover and low human impact. Habitat selection was not modified by local moose density, but was related to home range size at both spatial scales. Larger home ranges contained larger proportions of non-preferred habitat types compared to smaller home ranges. At the home range scale, the selection for a habitat type decreased with its relative availability, indicating a functional response in habitat selection. This suggests that habitat selection is modified by home range size, which influences the availability of habitat types and shapes individual habitat selection patterns. Our results support previous suggestions that analyses of habitat or resource selection should follow a multi-scale approach. Both the relative availability of habitat types as well as individual variation in home range size should be accounted for in order to disentangle the complex mechanisms that contribute to shape patterns of resource selection in animals.