Behavioral valuation of landscapes using movement data


Wildlife tracking is one of the most frequently employed approaches to monitor and study wildlife populations. To date, the application of tracking data to applied objectives has focused largely on the intensity of use by an animal in a location or the type of habitat. While this has provided valuable insights and advanced spatial wildlife management, such interpretation of tracking data does not capture the complexity of spatio-temporal processes inherent to animal behaviour and represented in the movement path. Here, we discuss current and emerging approaches to estimate the behavioural value of spatial locations using movement data, focusing on the nexus of conservation behaviour and movement ecology that can amplify the application of animal tracking research to contemporary conservation challenges. We highlight the importance of applying behavioural ecological approaches to the analysis of tracking data and discuss the utility of comparative approaches, optimization theory and economic valuation to gain understanding of movement strategies and gauge population-level processes. First, we discuss innovations in the most fundamental movement-based valuation of landscapes, the intensity of use of a location, namely dissecting temporal dynamics in and means by which to weight the intensity of use. We then expand our discussion to three less common currencies for behavioural valuation of landscapes, namely the assessment of the functional (i.e. what an individual is doing at a location), structural (i.e. how a location relates to use of the broader landscape) and fitness (i.e. the return from using a location) value of a location. Strengthening the behavioural theoretical underpinnings of movement ecology research promises to provide a deeper, mechanistic understanding of animal movement that can lead to unprecedented insights into the interaction between landscapes and animal behaviour and advance the application of movement research to conservation challenges.

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society