U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological Modelling 221 (2010) 565–574.


The performance of statistical methods for modeling resource selection by animals is difficult to evaluate with field data because true selection patterns are unknown. Simulated data based on a known probability distribution, though, can be used to evaluate statistical methods. Models should estimate true selection patterns if they are to be useful in analyzing and interpreting field data. We used simulation techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of three statistical methods used in modeling resource selection. We generated 25 use locations per animal and included 10, 20, 40, or 80 animals in samples of use locations. To simulate species of different mobility, we generated use locations at four levels according to a known probability distribution across DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, USA. We either generated 5 random locations per use location or 10,000 random locations (total) within 4 predetermined areas around use locations to determine how the definition of availability and the number of random locations affected results. We analyzed simulated data using discrete choice, logistic regression, and a maximum entropy method (Maxent). We used a simple linear regression of estimated and known probability distributions and area under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUC) to evaluate the performance of each method. Each statistical method was affected differently by number of animals and random locations used in analyses, level at which selection of resources occurred, and area considered available. Discrete-choice modeling resulted in precise and accurate estimates of the true probability distribution when the area in which use locations were generated was ≥ the area defined to be available. Logistic-regression models were unbiased and precise when the area in which use locations were generated and the area defined to be available were the same size; the fit of these models improved with increased numbers of random locations. Maxent resulted in unbiased and precise estimates of the known probability distribution when the area in which use locations were generated was small (home range level) and the area defined to be available was large (study area). Based on AUC analyses, all models estimated the selection distribution better than random chance. Results from AUC analyses, however, often contradicted results of the linear regression method used to evaluate model performance. Discrete choice modeling was best able to estimate the known selection distribution in our study area regardless of sample size or number of random locations used in the analyses, but we recommend further studies using simulated data over different landscapes and different resource metrics to confirm our results. Our study offers an approach and guidance for others interested in assessing the utility of techniques for modeling resource selection in their study area.