Are kernels the mustard? Data from global positioning system (GPS) collars suggests problems for kernel home-range analyses with least-squares cross-validation


†Present address and correspondence: Graham Hemson, Flat 10/12 Cohen Street, Fairlight, NSW 2094, Australia. E-mail:


  • 1Kernel-density estimation (KDE) is one of the most widely used home-range estimators in ecology. The recommended implementation uses least squares cross-validation (LSCV) to calculate the smoothing factor (h) which has a considerable influence on the home-range estimate.
  • 2We tested the performance of least squares cross-validated kernel-density estimation (LSCV KDE) using data from global positioning system (GPS)-collared lions subsampled to simulate the effects of hypothetical radio-tracking strategies.
  • 3LSCV produced variable results and a 7% failure rate for fewer than 100 locations (n = 2069) and a 61% failure rate above 100 points (n = 1220). Patterns of failure and variation were not consistent among lions, reflecting different individual space use patterns.
  • 4Intensive use of core areas and site fidelity by animals caused LSCV to fail more often than anticipated from studies that used computer-simulated data.
  • 5LSCV failures at large sample sizes and variation at small sample sizes, limits the applicability of LSCV KDE to fewer situations than the literature suggests, and casts doubts over the method's reliability and comparability as a home-range estimator.