Title

Energetic behavioural-strategy prioritization of Clark’s nutcrackers in whitebark pine communities: An agent-based modeling approach

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2017

Publication Title

Ecological Modelling

Volume

354

Issue

Supplement C

First Page

123

Last Page

139

DOI

10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2017.03.019

Abstract

While much is known about the relationship between Clark’s nutcracker and whitebark pine, information on nutcracker energetic behavioural strategies − the driving factors behind nutcracker emigration − and the impact of nutcracker behaviour on whitebark pine communities remain uncertain. To investigate nutcracker energetic behaviour, we developed a spatially explicit agent-based model (ABM) to simulate the underlying behavioural mechanisms nutcrackers are most likely to employ during foraging in the South Cascades near Mt. Rainier, Washington. The ABM is comprised of cognitive nutcracker agents possessing memory and decision-making heuristics that act to optimize energy acquisition and loss. Environmental data layers for elevation and basal area of tree species were used to represent the landscape in terms of habitat and energy resources. We employed the evaludation approach for an organized sequence of model development and analysis, including: data evaluation, conceptual model evaluation, implementation, verification, model output verification (calibration consisting of comparison of parameters informed by nutcracker ecology to real-world empirical values; pattern-oriented modeling − POM), model analysis (sensitivity of model to changes in parameters and processes), and model output corroboration (use of POM to compare model output to real-world patterns from empirical investigations of nutcracker ecology, independent of calibration). Simulations were conducted on alternative nutcracker behavioural-energetic mechanism strategies by assigning different fitness-maximizing goals to agents. We found that an integrated energetic requirement (IER) mechanism, which includes both the short-term and long-term energetic needs of nutcracker agents to be the best-fit scenario. Our results affirm previous research that nutcrackers are responsive to changes in their energetic environment, and that they are capable of projecting energy budgets well into the future. The development of this ABM provides a basis for future research, such as a means to assess the driving conditions necessary for nutcrackers when choosing between a resident and emigrant strategy and as a planning tool to model nutcracker responses to potential landscape changes, which may facilitate long-term WBP conservation.

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