Comparing habitat suitability and connectivity modeling methods for conserving pronghorn migrations.
Terrestrial long-distance migrations are declining globally: in North America, nearly 75% have been lost. Yet there has been limited research comparing habitat suitability and connectivity models to identify migration corridors across increasingly fragmented landscapes. Here we use pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) migrations in prairie habitat to compare two types of models that identify habitat suitability: maximum entropy (Maxent) and expert-based (Analytic Hierarchy Process). We used distance to wells, distance to water, NDVI, land cover, distance to roads, terrain shape and fence presence to parameterize the models. We then used the output of these models as cost surfaces to compare two common connectivity models, least-cost modeling (LCM) and circuit theory. Using pronghorn movement data from spring and fall migrations, we identified potential migration corridors by combining each habitat suitability model with each connectivity model. The best performing model combination was Maxent with LCM corridors across both seasons. Maxent out-performed expert-based habitat suitability models for both spring and fall migrations. However, expert-based corridors can perform relatively well and are a cost-effective alternative if species location data are unavailable. Corridors created using LCM out-performed circuit theory, as measured by the number of pronghorn GPS locations present within the corridors. We suggest the use of a tiered approach using different corridor widths for prioritizing conservation and mitigation actions, such as fence removal or conservation easements.
Poor, EE; Loucks, C; Jakes, A; Urban, DL
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