The advancing role of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology in ecology has made studies of animal movement possible for larger and more vagile species. A simple field test revealed that lengths of GPS-based movement data were strongly biased (P<0.001) by effects of forest canopy. Global Positioning System error added an average of 27.5% additional length to tracks recorded under high canopy, while adding only 8.5% to open-canopy tracks, thus biasing comparisons of track length or tortuosity among habitat types. Other studies may incur different levels of bias depending on GPS sampling rates. Ninety-nine percent of track errors under high canopy were ≤7.98 m of the true path; this value can be used to set the scale-threshold at which movements are attributed to error and not biologically interpreted. This bias should be considered before interpreting GPS-based animal movement data.
forest canopy closure
global positioning system