The application of GIS-modelling to mustelid landscape ecology



Landscapes are mosaics of habitat patches. The composition, configuration and connectivity of these elements changes in space and time as a result of ‘natural’ and human disturbance. Landscapes provide the ecological template for the life history and behavioural processes that determine animal spacing patterns. An understanding of the effects of landscape dynamics on mammal distributions is therefore vital if populations are to be managed effectively. Members of the Mustelidae present a considerable practical and theoretical challenge because of the great range of morphological, behavioural and ecological variation within the family. Habitat use data have been gathered only for a small number of Mustelidae species and most studies have been conducted with few individuals at small spatial scales and over relatively short time spans. Consequently, our knowledge of the landscape ecology of mustelids is very limited. Modelling can provide a strong conceptual framework for investigating mustelid-habitat relationships. We review the potential of different modelling approaches for analysing the influence of landscape dynamics on the distributions of mustelids.