Reconciling resource utilization and resource selection functions



  1. Analyses based on utilization distributions (UDs) have been ubiquitous in animal space use studies, largely because they are computationally straightforward and relatively easy to employ. Conventional applications of resource utilization functions (RUFs) suggest that estimates of UDs can be used as response variables in a regression involving spatial covariates of interest.
  2. It has been claimed that contemporary implementations of RUFs can yield inference about resource selection, although to our knowledge, an explicit connection has not been described.
  3. We explore the relationships between RUFs and resource selection functions from a hueristic and simulation perspective. We investigate several sources of potential bias in the estimation of resource selection coefficients using RUFs (e.g. the spatial covariance modelling that is often used in RUF analyses).
  4. Our findings illustrate that RUFs can, in fact, serve as approximations to RSFs and are capable of providing inference about resource selection, but only with some modification and under specific circumstances.
  5. Using real telemetry data as an example, we provide guidance on which methods for estimating resource selection may be more appropriate and in which situations. In general, if telemetry data are assumed to arise as a point process, then RSF methods may be preferable to RUFs; however, modified RUFs may provide less biased parameter estimates when the data are subject to location error.