Modelling movements of Saimaa ringed seals using anindividual-based approach
Liukkonen, Lauri; Ayllón, Daniel; Kunnasranta, Mervi; Niemi, Marja; Nabe-Nielsen, Jacob; Grimm, Volker; Nyman, Anna-Maija (2018)
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Movement is a fundamental element of animal behaviour, and it is the primary way through which ani-mals respond to environmental changes. Therefore, understanding the drivers of individual movementis essential for species conservation. The endangered Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) livesland-locked in Lake Saimaa and is affected by various anthropogenic factors. Telemetry studies providecritical information but are insufficient to identify the mechanisms responsible for particular move-ment patterns. To better understand these mechanisms and to predict how changed movement patternscould influence the subspecies’ spatial ecology, we developed an individual-based movement model. Wedivided the seals’ daily routines into foraging and resting and explored how well the model capturedobserved home ranges and other movement metrics. Here we present the model, its predictions of homeranges and its sensitivity to model assumptions and parameter uncertainty. We used movement datafrom one individual to calibrate the model, but this resulted in poor predictions of home range sizes offive seals used for validation. This suggests that differences in movement paths not only reflect differentlandscape configurations but also differences among the individuals’ state and personalities. Therefore,we separately re-calibrated the model to data from five individuals, reproducing their home ranges,habitat use and movement paths more accurately. Although ignoring many aspects of seal behaviour,the model can be applied as a tool to guide further data collection and analysis, study seal ecology, andevaluate the efficacy of various conservation measures.
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