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  1. Abstract Background

    Animal movement is a key ecological process that is tightly coupled to local environmental conditions. While agriculture, urbanisation, and transportation infrastructure are critical to human socio-economic improvement, these have spurred substantial changes in animal movement across the globe with potential impacts on fitness and survival. Notably, however, human disturbance can have differential effects across species, and responses to human activities are thus largely taxa and context specific. As human disturbance is only expected to worsen over the next decade it is critical to better understand how species respond to human disturbance in order to develop effective, case-specific conservation strategies.


    Here, we use an extensive telemetry dataset collected over 22 years to fill a critical knowledge gap in the movement ecology of lowland tapirs (Tapirus terrestris) across areas of varying human disturbance within three biomes in southern Brazil: the Pantanal, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest.


    From these data we found that the mean home range size across all monitored tapirs was 8.31 km2(95% CI 6.53–10.42), with no evidence that home range sizes differed between sexes nor age groups. Interestingly, although the Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, and Pantanal vary substantially in habitat composition, levels of human disturbance, and tapir population densities, we found that lowlandmore »tapir movement behaviour and space use were consistent across all three biomes. Human disturbance also had no detectable effect on lowland tapir movement. Lowland tapirs living in the most altered habitats we monitored exhibited movement behaviour that was comparable to that of tapirs living in a near pristine environment.


    Contrary to our expectations, although we observed individual variability in lowland tapir space use and movement, human impacts on the landscape also had no measurable effect on their movement. Lowland tapir movement behaviour thus appears to exhibit very little phenotypic plasticity in response to human disturbance. Crucially, the lack of any detectable response to anthropogenic disturbance suggests that human modified habitats risk being ecological traps for tapirs and this information should be factored into conservation actions and species management aimed towards protecting lowland tapir populations.

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  2. Abstract

    Migratory birds have the capacity to shift their migration phenology in response to climatic change. Yet the mechanistic underpinning of changes in migratory timing remain poorly understood. We employed newly developed global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices and long-term dataset of migration passage timing to investigate how behavioral responses to environmental conditions relate to phenological shifts in American robins (Turdus migratorius) during spring migration to Arctic-boreal breeding grounds. We found that over the past quarter-century (1994–2018), robins have migrated ca. 5 d/decade earlier. Based on GPS data collected for 55 robins over three springs (2016–2018), we found the arrival timing and likelihood of stopovers, and timing of arrival to breeding grounds, were strongly influenced by dynamics in snow conditions along migratory paths. These findings suggest plasticity in migratory behavior may be an important mechanism for how long-distance migrants adjust their breeding phenology to keep pace with advancement of spring on breeding grounds.

  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  4. The ability to move is essential for animals to find mates, escape predation, and meet energy and water demands. This is especially important across grazing systems where vegetation productivity can vary drastically between seasons or years. With grasslands undergoing significant changes due to climate change and anthropogenic development, there is an urgent need to determine the relative impacts of these pressures on the movement capacity of native herbivores. To measure these impacts, we fitted 36 white-bearded wildebeest ( Connochaetes taurinus ) with GPS collars across three study areas in southern Kenya (Amboseli Basin, Athi-Kaputiei Plains, and Mara) to test the relationship between movement (e.g., directional persistence, speed, home range crossing time) and gradients of vegetation productivity (i.e., NDVI) and anthropogenic disturbance. As expected, wildebeest moved the most (21.0 km day –1 ; CI: 18.7–23.3) across areas where movement was facilitated by low human footprint and necessitated by low vegetation productivity (Amboseli Basin). However, in areas with moderate vegetation productivity (Athi-Kaputiei Plains), wildebeest moved the least (13.3 km day –1 ; CI: 11.0–15.5). This deviation from expectations was largely explained by impediments to movement associated with a large human footprint. Notably, the movements of wildebeest in this area were also lessmore »directed than the other study populations, suggesting that anthropogenic disturbance (i.e., roads, fences, and the expansion of settlements) impacts the ability of wildebeest to move and access available resources. In areas with high vegetation productivity and moderate human footprint (Mara), we observed intermediate levels of daily movement (14.2 km day –1 ; CI: 12.3–16.1). Wildebeest across each of the study systems used grassland habitats outside of protected areas extensively, highlighting the importance of unprotected landscapes for conserving mobile species. These results provide unique insights into the interactive effects of climate and anthropogenic development on the movements of a dominant herbivore in East Africa and present a cautionary tale for the development of grazing ecosystems elsewhere.« less
  5. The ability of wild animals to navigate and survive in complex and dynamic environments depends on their ability to store relevant information and place it in a spatial context. Despite the centrality of spatial memory, and given our increasing ability to observe animal movements in the wild, it is perhaps surprising how difficult it is to demonstrate spatial memory empirically. We present a cognitive analysis of movements of several wolves ( Canis lupus ) in Finland during a summer period of intensive hunting and den-centered pup-rearing. We tracked several wolves in the field by visiting nearly all GPS locations outside the den, allowing us to identify the species, location and timing of nearly all prey killed. We then developed a model that assigns a spatially explicit value based on memory of predation success and territorial marking. The framework allows for estimation of multiple cognitive parameters, including temporal and spatial scales of memory. For most wolves, fitted memory-based models outperformed null models by 20 to 50% at predicting locations where wolves chose to forage. However, there was a high amount of individual variability among wolves in strength and even direction of responses to experiences. Some wolves tended to return to locationsmore »with recent predation success—following a strategy of foraging site fidelity—while others appeared to prefer a site switching strategy. These differences are possibly explained by variability in pack sizes, numbers of pups, and features of the territories. Our analysis points toward concrete strategies for incorporating spatial memory in the study of animal movements while providing nuanced insights into the behavioral strategies of individual predators.« less
  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Migrating birds experience weather conditions that change with time, which affect their decision to stop or resume migration. Soaring migrants are especially sensitive to changing weather conditions because they rely on the availability of environmental updrafts to subsidize flight. The timescale that local weather conditions change over is on the order of hours, while stopovers are studied at the daily scale, creating a temporal mismatch. Methods We used GPS satellite tracking data from four migratory Turkey Vulture ( Cathartes aura ) populations, paired with local weather data, to determine if the decision to stopover by migrating Turkey Vultures was in response to changing local weather conditions. We analyzed 174 migrations of 34 individuals from 2006 to 2019 and identified 589 stopovers based on variance of first passage times. We also investigated if the extent of movement activity correlated with average weather conditions experienced during a stopover, and report general patterns of stopover use by Turkey Vultures between seasons and across populations. Results Stopover duration ranged from 2 h to more than 11 days, with 51 % of stopovers lasting < 24 h. Turkey Vultures began stopovers immediately in response to changes in weather variables that did not favor thermal soaring (e.g., increasing precipitationmore »fraction and decreasing thermal updraft velocity) and their departure from stopovers was associated with improvements in weather that favored thermal development. During stopovers, proportion of activity was negatively associated with precipitation but was positively associated with temperature and thermal updraft velocity. Conclusions The rapid response of migrating Turkey Vultures to changing weather conditions indicates weather-avoidance is one of the major functions of their stopover use. During stopovers, however, the positive relationship between proportion of movement activity and conditions that promote thermal development suggests not all stopovers are used for weather-avoidance. Our results show that birds are capable of responding rapidly to their environment; therefore, for studies interested in external drivers of weather-related stopovers, it is essential that stopovers be identified at fine temporal scales.« less
  7. Seasonal migrations are a widespread and broadly successful strategy for animals to exploit periodic and localized resources over large spatial scales. It remains an open and largely case-specific question whether long-distance migrations are resilient to environmental disruptions. High levels of mobility suggest an ability to shift ranges that can confer resilience. On the other hand, a conservative, hard-wired commitment to a risky behavior can be costly if conditions change. Mechanisms that contribute to migration include identification and responsiveness to resources, sociality, and cognitive processes such as spatial memory and learning. Our goal was to explore the extent to which these factors interact not only to maintain a migratory behavior but also to provide resilience against environmental changes. We develop a diffusion-advection model of animal movement in which an endogenous migratory behavior is modified by recent experiences via a memory process, and animals have a social swarming-like behavior over a range of spatial scales. We found that this relatively simple framework was able to adapt to a stable, seasonal resource dynamic under a broad range of parameter values. Furthermore, the model was able to acquire an adaptive migration behavior with time. However, the resilience of the process depended on all themore »parameters under consideration, with many complex trade-offs. For example, the spatial scale of sociality needed to be large enough to capture changes in the resource, but not so large that the acquired collective information was overly diluted. A long-term reference memory was important for hedging against a highly stochastic process, but a higher weighting of more recent memory was needed for adapting to directional changes in resource phenology. Our model provides a general and versatile framework for exploring the interaction of memory, movement, social and resource dynamics, even as environmental conditions globally are undergoing rapid change.« less
  8. null (Ed.)
    Integrating diverse concepts from animal behavior, movement ecology, and machine learning, we develop an overview of the ecology of learning and animal movement. Learning-based movement is clearly relevant to ecological problems, but the subject is rooted firmly in psychology, including a distinct terminology. We contrast this psychological origin of learning with the task-oriented perspective on learning that has emerged from the field of machine learning. We review conceptual frameworks that characterize the role of learning in movement, discuss emerging trends, and summarize recent developments in the analysis of movement data. We also discuss the relative advantages of different modeling approaches for exploring the learning-movement interface. We explore in depth how individual and social modalities of learning can matter to the ecology of animal movement, and highlight how diverse kinds of field studies, ranging from translocation efforts to manipulative experiments, can provide critical insight into the learning process in animal movement.