Development of an individual-based model to evaluate elk Cervus elaphus nelsoni movement and distribution patterns following the Cerro Grande Fire in north central New Mexico, USA

Rupp, S.P.; Rupp, P.

Ecological Modelling (Jun 24): 1605-1619


ISSN/ISBN: 0304-3800
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2010.03.014
Accession: 037410381

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Though studies have modeled the effects of fires on elk, no studies have related the effects of post-fire landscape succession on ungulate movements and distribution using dynamic modeling techniques. The purpose of this study was to develop and test a spatially-explicit, stochastic, individual-based model (IBM) to evaluate potential movement and distribution patterns of elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) in relation to spatial and temporal aspects of the Cerro Grande Fire that burned north central New Mexico in May of 2000. Following extensive literature review, the SAVANNA Ecosystem Model was selected to simulate the underlying post-fire successional processes driving elk movement and distribution. Standard logisitic regression was used to analyze habitat-use patterns of ten elk from data collected using global positioning system radio collars while an additional five animals were used as an independent test set during model validation. Static variables in the form of roads, buildings, fences, and habitual use/memory were used to modify a map of impedance values based on the logistic regression of slope, aspect, and elevation. Integration with SAVANNA came through the application of a habitat suitability index (HSI), which combined movement rules written for the IBM and variables modified and produced by the dynamic ecological processes run in SAVANNA. Overall pattern analysis indicated that realistic migrational processes and habitat-use patterns emerged from movement rules incorporated into the IBM in response to advancing and receding snow when compared to the independent test set. Primary and secondary movement pathways emerged from the collective responses of simulated individuals. Using regression analyses, no significant differences between simulated animals and animals used in either model development or an independent test set revealed any differences in response to snow patterns. These considerations suggest the model was adequately corroborated based on existing data and outlined objectives.