Using spatial statistics and point-pattern simulations to assess the spatial dependency between greater sage-grouse and anthropogenic features


  • Associate Editor: Gervais



The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse), a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, has experienced population declines across its range in the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) steppe ecosystems of western North America. One factor contributing to the loss of habitat is the expanding human population with associated development and infrastructure. Our objective was to use a spatial-statistical approach to assess the effect of roads, power transmission lines, and rural buildings on sage-grouse habitat use. We used the pair correlation function (PCF) spatial statistic to compare sage-grouse radiotelemetry locations in west-central Idaho, USA, to the locations of anthropogenic features to determine whether sage-grouse avoided these features, thus reducing available habitat. To determine significance, we compared empirical PCFs with Monte Carlo simulations that replicated the spatial autocorrelation of the sampled sage-grouse locations. We demonstrate the implications of selecting an appropriate null model for the spatial statistical analysis by comparing results using a spatially random and a clustered null model. Results indicated that sage-grouse avoided buildings by 150 m and power transmission lines by 600 m, because their PCFs were outside the bounds of a 95% significance envelope constructed from 1,000 iterations of a null model. Sage-grouse exhibited no detectable avoidance of major and minor roads. The methods used here are broadly applicable in conservation biology and wildlife management to evaluate spatial relationships between species occurrence and landscape features. Our results can directly inform planning of infrastructure and other development projects in or near sage-grouse habitat. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.