Understanding how animals forage has always been a fundamental issue in Ethology and has become critical more recently in Environmental Conservation. Since the formalization of optimal foraging theory, theoretical models intended to depict the behavior of a generic forager have served as the main tools to analyze and ultimately comprehend the mechanisms of foraging. Due to complexity and technical constraints, these models have traditionally focused on single aspects of foraging, leaving out other concurrent processes that may also interplay. The recent inclusion of several facets inside united models has given rise to interesting results on the importance of interacting factors such as memory and resource heterogeneity. In this paper, we present a hybrid model integrating metabolism, foraging decisions, memory, as well as spatially explicit movement and resource distribution. We use it to examine the effects of spatial resource distribution – an aspect often neglected in favor of probabilistic resource heterogeneity – on the viability of a generic random-walking forager, and rely on the model to devise an ecological metric that can explain and render the relative profitability of given spatial distributions. Furthermore, we assess the significance of memory properties relatively to the profitability of resource distributions. Most notably, we reveal contrasted effects of memory depending on the aspect of resource varied in space (i.e. prey abundance, or prey body mass). On the whole, a general comparison of our findings with results obtained with spatially implicit models leads us to stress the complex interaction between memory and spatial resource distribution as well as the criticality of spatial representation in the modeling of foraging. Accordingly, we conclude with a discussion on the ecological implications of these results, as well as the advantages of hybrid modeling for the accurate simulation of foraging.

How spatial resource distribution and memory impact foraging success: A hybrid model and mechanistic index

MAZZOLENI, STEFANO;CARTENI', FABRIZIO;GIANNINO, FRANCESCO
2015

Abstract

Understanding how animals forage has always been a fundamental issue in Ethology and has become critical more recently in Environmental Conservation. Since the formalization of optimal foraging theory, theoretical models intended to depict the behavior of a generic forager have served as the main tools to analyze and ultimately comprehend the mechanisms of foraging. Due to complexity and technical constraints, these models have traditionally focused on single aspects of foraging, leaving out other concurrent processes that may also interplay. The recent inclusion of several facets inside united models has given rise to interesting results on the importance of interacting factors such as memory and resource heterogeneity. In this paper, we present a hybrid model integrating metabolism, foraging decisions, memory, as well as spatially explicit movement and resource distribution. We use it to examine the effects of spatial resource distribution – an aspect often neglected in favor of probabilistic resource heterogeneity – on the viability of a generic random-walking forager, and rely on the model to devise an ecological metric that can explain and render the relative profitability of given spatial distributions. Furthermore, we assess the significance of memory properties relatively to the profitability of resource distributions. Most notably, we reveal contrasted effects of memory depending on the aspect of resource varied in space (i.e. prey abundance, or prey body mass). On the whole, a general comparison of our findings with results obtained with spatially implicit models leads us to stress the complex interaction between memory and spatial resource distribution as well as the criticality of spatial representation in the modeling of foraging. Accordingly, we conclude with a discussion on the ecological implications of these results, as well as the advantages of hybrid modeling for the accurate simulation of foraging.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11588/609083
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