1 Tahrcountry Musings: Circumventing limitations of GIS technology

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Circumventing limitations of GIS technology

Greater Sage-Grouse Nesting Habitat: The Importance of Managing at Multiple Scales
Doherty, K.E., Naugle, D.E. & Walker, B.L. Greater Sage-Grouse Nesting Habitat: The Importance of Managing at Multiple Scales. Journal of Wildlife Management 74, 1544-1553 (2010).

The other day I was discussing with my friend Ramesh, the limitations of use of GIS in wildlife management.  GIS often takes in to account only landscape scale vegetation patterns. This is the result of extreme resolution required to know about local level vegetation characteristics from satellite imagery.  The starting point was a 2010 paper referred to above. Here is a paper that looks at the limitations of GIS. The researchers come up with alternate solutions to plug the loop.

A close look at habitat selection at multiple scales is essential to fully understand habitat requirements and dovetail it to the management needs for wildlife. The researchers used a hierarchical information-theoretic approach and variance decomposition techniques to analyze habitat selection using local-scale habitat variables measured in the field and landscape-scale variables derived with a Geographic Information System (GIS) for nesting greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in the Powder River Basin (PRB), Montana and Wyoming, USA.
The authors say variance decomposition showed that local-scale measures explained the most pure variation (50%) in sage-grouse nesting-habitat selection. Landscape-scale features explained 20% of pure variation and shared 30% with local-scale features. The landscape-scale model produced was accurate in predicting priority landscapes where sage-grouse nests would occur and is, therefore, useful in providing landscape context for management decisions. It accurately predicted locations of independent sage-grouse nests (validation R2 = 0.99) and showed good discriminatory ability with >90% of nests located within only 40% of the study area.
The model also accurately predicted independent lek locations and supported predictions of the hotspot theory of lek placement. 
The authors signs off saying “ Local-scale habitat variables that cannot currently be mapped in a GIS strongly influence sage-grouse nest-site selection, but only within priority nesting habitats defined at the landscape scale. Our results indicate that habitat treatments for nesting sage-grouse applied in areas with an unsuitable landscape context are unlikely to achieve desired conservation results.”

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