Aeroecology pp 47-69 | Cite as

Extending the Habitat Concept to the Airspace

  • Robert H. Diehl
  • Anna C. Peterson
  • Rachel T. Bolus
  • Douglas H. Johnson


Habitat is one of the most familiar and fundamental concepts in the fields of ecology, animal behavior, and wildlife conservation and management. Humans interact with habitats through their senses and experiences and education to such a degree that their perceptions of habitat have become second nature. For this reason, it may be difficult at first to accept the airspace as habitat, an area that is invisible, untouchable, highly dynamic, and its occupants difficult to see. Nonetheless, the habitat concept, by definition and in practice, applies readily to the airspace. Some ecological and behavioral processes including habitat selection, foraging, and reproduction are operational in the airspace, while others, particularly those mediated by resource limitation such as territoriality, are likely uncommon if present at all. The behaviors of flying animals increasingly expose them to anthropogenic hazards as development of the airspace accelerates. This exacerbates the need to identify approaches for managing these human–wildlife conflicts in aerial habitats, especially where human safety or at-risk populations are concerned. The habitat concept has proven useful in shaping environmental law and policy to help mitigate these conflicts. It remains to be seen whether current law can bend to include a more expansive concept of habitat that includes the airspace.



We thank S. Soileau, H. Hoffmann, and the editors for helpful input on this chapter. The USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center Ecolunch group provided valuable feedback as the concept of aerial habitat was developed. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert H. Diehl
    • 1
  • Anna C. Peterson
    • 2
  • Rachel T. Bolus
    • 3
  • Douglas H. Johnson
    • 4
  1. 1.US Geological SurveyNorthern Rocky Mountain Science CenterBozemanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUS
  3. 3.Department of BiologySouthern Utah UniversityCedar CityUSA
  4. 4.US Geological SurveyNorthern Prairie Wildlife Research CenterJamestownUSA

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