Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 835–855

Sensitivity of resource selection and connectivity models to landscape definition

  • Katherine A. Zeller
  • Kevin McGarigal
  • Samuel A. Cushman
  • Paul Beier
  • T. Winston Vickers
  • Walter M. Boyce
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10980-017-0489-8

Cite this article as:
Zeller, K.A., McGarigal, K., Cushman, S.A. et al. Landscape Ecol (2017) 32: 835. doi:10.1007/s10980-017-0489-8



The definition of the geospatial landscape is the underlying basis for species-habitat models, yet sensitivity of habitat use inference, predicted probability surfaces, and connectivity models to landscape definition has received little attention.


We evaluated the sensitivity of resource selection and connectivity models to four landscape definition choices including (1) the type of geospatial layers used, (2) layer source, (3) thematic resolution, and (4) spatial grain.


We used GPS telemetry data from pumas (Puma concolor) in southern California to create multi-scale path selection function models (PathSFs) across landscapes with 2500 unique landscape definitions. To create the landscape definitions, we identified seven geospatial layers that have been shown to influence puma habitat use. We then varied the number, sources, spatial grain, and thematic resolutions of these layers to create our suite of plausible landscape definitions. We assessed how PathSF model performance (based on AIC) was affected by landscape definition and examined variability among the predicted probability of movement surfaces, connectivity models, and road crossing locations.


We found model performance was extremely sensitive to landscape definition and identified only seven top models out of our suite of definitions (<1%). Spatial grain and the number of geospatial layers selected for a landscape definition significantly affected model performance measures, with finer grains and greater numbers of layers increasing model performance.


Given the sensitivity of habitat use inference, predicted probability surfaces, and connectivity models to landscape definition, out results indicate the need for increased attention to landscape definition in future studies.


Species-habitat relationships Resource selection function Spatial grain Thematic resolution Puma concolor Connectivity Corridor Resistance 

Supplementary material

10980_2017_489_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1028 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation (US)
    American Association of University Women
      University of Massachusetts Amherst

        Copyright information

        © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

        Authors and Affiliations

        1. 1.Department of Environmental ConservationUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
        2. 2.U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research StationFlagstaffUSA
        3. 3.School of ForestryNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
        4. 4.Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of California DavisDavisUSA

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