, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 843-855
Date: 27 Mar 2014

Modeling spatial distribution of European badger in arid landscapes: an ecosystem functioning approach

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Abstract

Understanding the factors determining the spatial distribution of species is a major challenge in ecology and conservation. This study tests the use of ecosystem functioning variables, derived from satellite imagery data, to explore their potential use in modeling the distribution of the European badger in Mediterranean arid environments. We found that the performance of distribution models was enhanced by the inclusion of variables derived from the Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), such as mean EVI (a proxy for primary production), the coefficient of variation of mean EVI (an indicator of seasonality), and the standard deviation of mean EVI (representing spatial heterogeneity of primary production). We also found that distributions predicted by remote sensing data were consistent with the ecological preferences of badger in those environments, which may be explained by the link between EVI-derived variables and the spatial and temporal variability of food resource availability. In conclusion, we suggest the incorporation of variables associated with ecosystem function into species modeling exercises as a useful tool for improving decision-making related to wildlife conservation and management.