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Estimating home-range size: when to include a third dimension?

Authors
Journal
Ecology and Evolution
2045-7758
Publisher
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Volume
3
Issue
7
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.590
Keywords
  • Original Research
Disciplines
  • Ecology

Abstract

Most studies dealing with home ranges consider the study areas as if they were totally flat, working only in two dimensions, when in reality they are irregular surfaces displayed in three dimensions. By disregarding the third dimension (i.e., topography), the size of home ranges underestimates the surface actually occupied by the animal, potentially leading to misinterpretations of the animals' ecological needs. We explored the influence of considering the third dimension in the estimation of home-range size by modeling the variation between the planimetric and topographic estimates at several spatial scales. Our results revealed that planimetric approaches underestimate home-range size estimations, which range from nearly zero up to 22%. The difference between planimetric and topographic estimates of home-ranges sizes produced highly robust models using the average slope as the sole independent factor. Moreover, our models suggest that planimetric estimates in areas with an average slope of 16.3° (±0.4) or more will incur in errors ≥5%. Alternatively, the altitudinal range can be used as an indicator of the need to include topography in home-range estimates. Our results confirmed that home-range estimates could be significantly biased when topography is disregarded. We suggest that study areas where home-range studies will be performed should firstly be scoped for its altitudinal range, which can serve as an indicator for the need for posterior use of average slope values to model the surface area used and/or available for the studied animals.

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