Modeling the probability of use of land units characterized by discrete and continuous measures, we present a Bayesian random-effects model to assess resource selection. This model provides simultaneous estimation of both individual- and population-level selection. Deviance information criterion (DIC), a Bayesian alternative to AIC that is sample-size specific, is used for model selection. Aerial radiolocation data from 76 adult female caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and calf pairs during 1 year on an Arctic coastal plain calving ground were used to illustrate models and assess population-level selection of landscape attributes, as well as individual heterogeneity of selection. Landscape attributes included elevation, NDVI (a measure of forage greenness), and land cover-type classification. Results from the first of a 2-stage model-selection procedure indicated that there is substantial heterogeneity among cow-calf pairs with respect to selection of the landscape attributes. In the second stage, selection of models with heterogeneity included indicated that at the population-level, NDVI and land cover class were significant attributes for selection of different landscapes by pairs on the calving ground. Population-level selection coefficients indicate that the pairs generally select landscapes with higher levels of NDVI, but the relationship is quadratic. The highest rate of selection occurs at values of NDVI less than the maximum observed. Results for land cover-class selections coefficients indicate that wet sedge, moist sedge, herbaceous tussock tundra, and shrub tussock tundra are selected at approximately the same rate, while alpine and sparsely vegetated landscapes are selected at a lower rate. Furthermore, the variability in selection by individual caribou for moist sedge and sparsely vegetated landscapes is large relative to the variability in selection of other land cover types. The example analysis illustrates that, while sometimes computationally intense, a Bayesian hierarchical discrete-choice model for resource selection can provide managers with 2 components of population-level inference: average population selection and variability of selection. Both components are necessary to make sound management decisions based on animal selection.
Additional publication details
A Bayesian random effects discrete-choice model for resource selection: Population-level selection inference