Date of this Version
Cady, S. M., Davis, C. A., Fuhlendorf, S. D., Scholtz, R., Uden, D. R., & Twidwell, D. (2021). Generalist bird exhibits site-dependent resource selection. Ecology and Evolution, 11, 12714–12727. https://doi.org/10.1002/ ece3.8016
Quantifying resource selection (an organism's disproportionate use of available resources) is essential to infer habitat requirements of a species, develop management recommendations, predict species responses to changing conditions, and improve our understanding of the processes that underlie ecological patterns. Because study sites, even within the same region, can differ in both the amount and the arrangement of cover types, our objective was to determine whether proximal sites can yield markedly different resource selection results for a generalist bird, northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus). We used 5 years of telemetry locations and newly developed land cover data at two, geographically distinct but relatively close sites in the south-central semi-arid prairies of North America. We fit a series of generalized linear mixed models and used an information-theoretic model comparison approach to identify and compare resource selection patterns at each site. We determined that the importance of different cover types to northern bobwhite is site-dependent on relatively similar and nearby sites. Specifically, whether bobwhite selected for shrub cover and whether they strongly avoided trees, depended on the study site in focus. Additionally, the spatial scale of selection was nearly an order of magnitude different between the cover types. Our study demonstrates that—even for one of the most intensively studied species in the world—we may oversimplify resource selection by using a single study site approach. Managing the trade-offs between practical, generalized conclusions and precise but complex conclusions is one of the central challenges in applied ecology. However, we caution against setting recommendations for broad extents based on information gathered at small extents, even for a generalist species at adjacent sites. Before extrapolating information to areas beyond the data collected, managers should account for local differences in the availability, arrangement, and scaling of resources.