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Title: Movement rules determine nomadic species' responses to resource supplementation and degradation

In environments that vary unpredictably, many animals are nomadic, moving in an irregular pattern that differs from year to year. Exploring the mechanisms of nomadic movement is needed to understand how animals survive in highly variable environments, and to predict behavioural and population responses to environmental change.

We developed a network model to identify plausible mechanisms of nomadic animal movement by comparing the performance of multiple movement rules along a continuum from nomadism to residency. Using simulations and analytical results, we explored how different types of habitat modifications (that augment or decrease resource availability) might affect the abundance and movement rates of animals following each of these rules.

Movement rules for which departure from patches depended on resource availability and/or competition performed almost equally well and better than residency or uninformed movement under most conditions, even though animals using each rule moved at substantially different rates. Habitat modifications that stabilized resources, either by resource supplementation or degradation, eroded the benefits of informed nomadic movements, particularly for movements based on resource availability alone.

These results suggest that simple movement rules can explain nomadic animal movements and determine species’ responses to environmental change. In particular, landscape stabilization and supplementation might be useful strategies for promoting populations of resident animals, but would be less beneficial for managing highly mobile species, many of which are threatened by habitat disruption and changes in climate.

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Journal Name:
Journal of Animal Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 2644-2656
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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