Resource selection function

Resource selection functions (RSFs) are a class of functions that are used in spatial ecology to assess which habitat characteristics are important to a specific population or species of animal, by assessing the a probability of that animal using a certain resource proportional to the availability of that resource in the environment.[1]


Resource Selection Functions require two types of data: location information for the wildlife in question, and data on the resources available across the study area. Resources can include a broad range of environmental and geographical variables, including categorical variables such as land cover type, or continuous variables such as average rainfall over a given time period. A variety of methods are used for modeling RSFs, with logistic regression being commonly used.[2]

RSFs can be fit to data where animal presence is known, but absence is not, such as for species where several individuals within a study area are fitted with a GPS collar, but some individuals may be present without collars. When this is the case, buffers of various distances are generated around known presence points, with a number of available points generated within each buffer, which represent areas where the animal could have been, but it is unknown whether they actually were.[3] These models can be fit using binomial generalized linear models or binomial generalized linear mixed models, with the resources, or environmental and geographic data, as explanatory variables.


Resource selection functions can be modeled at a variety of spatial scales, depending on the species and the scientific question being studied. (insert one more sentence on scale)

Most RSFs address one of the following scales, which were defined by Douglas Johnson in 1980 and are still used today:[4]

  • First order selection: The entire range of a species
  • Second order selection: The home range of an individual or group of animals
  • Third order selection: Resource or habitat usage within an individual's or group's home range
  • Fourth order selection: The procurement of specific resources, such as food, at specific sites


  1. ^ Boyce, Mark S; Vernier, Pierre R; Nielsen, Scott E; Schmiegelow, Fiona K. A (2002-11-30). "Evaluating resource selection functions". Ecological Modelling. 157 (2–3): 281–300. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S0304-3800(02)00200-4.
  2. ^ Manly, B. F.; McDonald, L.; Thomas, Dana; McDonald, Trent L.; Erickson, Wallace P. (2007-05-08). Resource Selection by Animals: Statistical Design and Analysis for Field Studies. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9780306481512.
  3. ^ Johnson, Chris J.; Nielsen, Scott E.; Merrill, Evelyn H.; Mcdonald, Trent L.; Boyce, Mark S. (2006-04-01). "Resource Selection Functions Based on Use–Availability Data: Theoretical Motivation and Evaluation Methods". Journal of Wildlife Management. 70 (2): 347–357. doi:10.2193/0022-541X(2006)70[347:RSFBOU]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0022-541X.
  4. ^ Johnson, Douglas H. (1980-02-01). "The Comparison of Usage and Availability Measurements for Evaluating Resource Preference". Ecology. 61 (1): 65–71. doi:10.2307/1937156. ISSN 1939-9170. JSTOR 1937156.

Bacterivores are free-living, generally heterotrophic organisms, exclusively microscopic, which obtain energy and nutrients primarily or entirely from the consumption of bacteria. Many species of amoeba are bacterivores, as well as other types of protozoans. Commonly, all species of bacteria will be prey, but spores of some species, such as Clostridium perfringens, will never be prey, because of their cellular attributes.


A copiotroph is an organism found in environments rich in nutrients, particularly carbon. They are the opposite to oligotrophs, which survive in much lower carbon concentrations.

Copiotrophic organisms tend to grow in high organic substrate conditions. For example, copiotrophic organisms grow in Sewage lagoons. They grow in organic substrate conditions up to 100x higher than oligotrophs.


Decomposers are organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, and in doing so, they carry out the natural process of decomposition. Like herbivores and predators, decomposers are heterotrophic, meaning that they use organic substrates to get their energy, carbon and nutrients for growth and development. While the terms decomposer and detritivore are often interchangeably used, detritivores must ingest and digest dead matter via internal processes while decomposers can directly absorb nutrients through chemical and biological processes hence breaking down matter without ingesting it. Thus, invertebrates such as earthworms, woodlice, and sea cucumbers are technically detritivores, not decomposers, since they must ingest nutrients and are unable to absorb them externally.


In population dynamics, depensation is the effect on a population (such as a fish stock) whereby, due to certain causes, a decrease in the breeding population (mature individuals) leads to reduced production and survival of eggs or offspring. The causes may include predation levels rising per offspring (given the same level of overall predator pressure) and the allee effect, particularly the reduced likelihood of finding a mate.

Dominance (ecology)

Ecological dominance is the degree to which a taxon is more numerous than its competitors in an ecological community, or makes up more of the biomass.

Most ecological communities are defined by their dominant species.

In many examples of wet woodland in western Europe, the dominant tree is alder (Alnus glutinosa).

In temperate bogs, the dominant vegetation is usually species of Sphagnum moss.

Tidal swamps in the tropics are usually dominated by species of mangrove (Rhizophoraceae)

Some sea floor communities are dominated by brittle stars.

Exposed rocky shorelines are dominated by sessile organisms such as barnacles and limpets.

Ecological threshold

Ecological threshold is the point at which a relatively small change or disturbance in external conditions causes a rapid change in an ecosystem. When an ecological threshold has been passed, the ecosystem may no longer be able to return to its state by means of its inherent resilience . Crossing an ecological threshold often leads to rapid change of ecosystem health. Ecological threshold represent a non-linearity of the responses in ecological or biological systems to pressures caused by human activities or natural processes.Critical load, tipping point and regime shift are examples of other closely related terms.

Energy Systems Language

The Energy Systems Language, also referred to as Energese, Energy Circuit Language, or Generic Systems Symbols, was developed by the ecologist Howard T. Odum and colleagues in the 1950s during studies of the tropical forests funded by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. They are used to compose energy flow diagrams in the field of systems ecology.

Feeding frenzy

In ecology, a feeding frenzy occurs when predators are overwhelmed by the amount of prey available. For example, a large school of fish can cause nearby sharks, such as the lemon shark, to enter into a feeding frenzy. This can cause the sharks to go wild, biting anything that moves, including each other or anything else within biting range. Another functional explanation for feeding frenzy is competition amongst predators. This term is most often used when referring to sharks or piranhas. It has also been used as a term within journalism.


A lithoautotroph or chemolithoautotroph is a microbe which derives energy from reduced compounds of mineral origin. Lithoautotrophs are a type of lithotrophs with autotrophic metabolic pathways. Lithoautotrophs are exclusively microbes; macrofauna do not possess the capability to use mineral sources of energy. Most lithoautotrophs belong to the domain Bacteria, while some belong to the domain Archaea. For lithoautotrophic bacteria, only inorganic molecules can be used as energy sources. The term "Lithotroph" is from Greek lithos (λίθος) meaning "rock" and trōphos (τροφοσ) meaning "consumer"; literally, it may be read "eaters of rock". Many lithoautotrophs are extremophiles, but this is not universally so.

Lithoautotrophs are extremely specific in using their energy source. Thus, despite the diversity in using inorganic molecules in order to obtain energy that lithoautotrophs exhibit as a group, one particular lithoautotroph would use only one type of inorganic molecule to get its energy.

Mesotrophic soil

Mesotrophic soils are soils with a moderate inherent fertility. An indicator of soil fertility is its base status, which is expressed as a ratio relating the major nutrient cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium) found there to the soil's clay percentage. This is commonly expressed in hundredths of a mole of cations per kilogram of clay, i.e. cmol (+) kg−1 clay.


A mycotroph is a plant that gets all or part of its carbon, water, or nutrient supply through symbiotic association with fungi. The term can refer to plants that engage in either of two distinct symbioses with fungi:

Many mycotrophs have a mutualistic association with fungi in any of several forms of mycorrhiza. The majority of plant species are mycotrophic in this sense. Examples include Burmanniaceae.

Some mycotrophs are parasitic upon fungi in an association known as myco-heterotrophy.


An organotroph is an organism that obtains hydrogen or electrons from organic substrates. This term is used in microbiology to classify and describe organisms based on how they obtain electrons for their respiration processes. Some organotrophs such as animals and many bacteria, are also heterotrophs. Organotrophs can be either anaerobic or aerobic.

Antonym: Lithotroph, Adjective: Organotrophic.


Overpopulation occurs when a species' population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births (fertility rate), a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. When overpopulation occurs, individuals limit available resources to survive.The change in number of individuals per unit area in a given locality is an important variable that has a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.


A planktivore is an aquatic organism that feeds on planktonic food, including zooplankton and phytoplankton.

Population cycle

A population cycle in zoology is a phenomenon where populations rise and fall over a predictable period of time. There are some species where population numbers have reasonably predictable patterns of change although the full reasons for population cycles is one of the major unsolved ecological problems. There are a number of factors which influence population change such as availability of food, predators, diseases and climate.

Recruitment (biology)

In biology, especially marine biology, recruitment occurs when a juvenile organism joins a population, whether by birth or immigration, usually at a stage whereby the organisms are settled and able to be detected by an observer.There are two types of recruitment: closed and open.In the study of fisheries, recruitment is "the number of fish surviving to enter the fishery or to some life history stage such as settlement or maturity".

Relative abundance distribution

In the field of ecology, the relative abundance distribution (RAD) or species abundance distribution describes the relationship between the number of species observed in a field study as a function of their observed abundance. The graphs obtained in this manner are typically fitted to a Zipf–Mandelbrot law, the exponent of which serves as an index of biodiversity in the ecosystem under study.

Species distribution modelling

Species distribution modelling (SDM), also known as environmental (or ecological) niche modelling (ENM), habitat modelling, predictive habitat distribution modelling, and range mapping uses computer algorithms to predict the distribution of a species across geographic space and time using environmental data. The environmental data are most often climate data (e.g. temperature, precipitation), but can include other variables such as soil type, water depth, and land cover. SDMs are used in several research areas in conservation biology, ecology and evolution. These models can be used to understand how environmental conditions influence the occurrence or abundance of a species, and for predictive purposes (ecological forecasting). Predictions from an SDM may be of a species’ future distribution under climate change, a species’ past distribution in order to assess evolutionary relationships, or the potential future distribution of an invasive species. Predictions of current and/or future habitat suitability can be useful for management applications (e.g. reintroduction or translocation of vulnerable species, reserve placement in anticipation of climate change).

There are two main types of SDMs. Correlative SDMs, also known as climate envelope models, bioclimatic models, or resource selection function models, model the observed distribution of a species as a function of environmental conditions. Mechanistic SDMs, also known as process-based models or biophysical models, use independently derived information about a species' physiology to develop a model of the environmental conditions under which the species can exist.The extent to which such modelled data reflect real-world species distributions will depend on a number of factors, including the nature, complexity, and accuracy of the models used and the quality of the available environmental data layers; the availability of sufficient and reliable species distribution data as model input; and the influence of various factors such as barriers to dispersal, geologic history, or biotic interactions, that increase the difference between the realized niche and the fundamental niche. Environmental niche modelling may be considered a part of the discipline of biodiversity informatics.

Species homogeneity

In ecology, species homogeneity is a lack of biodiversity. Species richness is the fundamental unit in which to assess the homogeneity of an environment. Therefore, any reduction in species richness, especially endemic species, could be argued as advocating the production of a homogenous environment.

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