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1 September 2009 Designating Seasonality Using Rate of Movement
Eric Vander Wal, Arthur R. Rodgers
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Traditionally, seasons for animals have been designated based on single external variables such as climate or plant phenology, rather than an animal's response to the dynamic environments within which it lives. By interpreting a rate of movement function of cumulative movement through time we established a method that distinguishes transitions between behaviors limited by winter habitat conditions from those present during summer. Identification of these time periods provides temporal definition to subsequent home-range analyses and use–availability comparisons. We used location data from 32 Global Positioning System–collared female moose (Alces alces) to demonstrate the method. We used model selection (Akaike's Information Criterion) to differentiate between candidate rate of movement response curves. Of 32 moose, 29 clearly conformed to an annual movement pattern described by a logistic curve, with increased rates of movement in summer compared to winter. Conversely, 3 aberrant individuals did not alter their movement rate through the year and were best fit with a linear response curve. The seasonal rate of movement model we developed suggests an average summer period of 122 days (median  =  119 days, range  =  96–173 days) for moose in northwestern Ontario, Canada. The rate of movement model we applied to individuals indicated 1 May as the median date for the winter–summer transition (range  =  2 Apr–24 May), and the median transition from summer to winter was 25 August (range  =  1 Aug–23 Oct). Wide variation in timing and duration of summer and winter seasons among individuals demonstrates potential failure of the single external variable approach to capture the suite of factors potentially influencing animal behaviors. By plotting cumulative distance moved throughout the year, we elucidated individual variation in response to known and unknown variables that affect animal movement. Accounting for variability among individuals in designation of biologically significant temporal boundaries is critical to delineation of seasonally important habitats for conservation and sustainability of healthy wildlife populations.

Eric Vander Wal and Arthur R. Rodgers "Designating Seasonality Using Rate of Movement," Journal of Wildlife Management 73(7), 1189-1196, (1 September 2009).
Published: 1 September 2009

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