Repository logo

Assessing wildlife habitat suitability for ecological sites and state and transition models




Hibbs, Willow Bo, author
Roath, Roy, advisor
Fernandez-Gimenez, Maria, committee member
Noon, Barry, committee member

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Wildlife habitat is an important component of rangeland management plans. Unfortunately, there are few practical tools to assist managers in understanding how management and environmental variation affects habitat suitability. Ecological site descriptions (ESDs) have the potential to fill this role because they contain information on the biophysical features of the land and contain state-and-transition models (STMs) which describe ecological sites in terms of their potential vegetation dynamics. These characteristics can be the primary indicators of suitable wildlife habitat. Researchers and managers using ESDs and STMs have suggested that information on other aspects of ecosystem functions should be included so that they can be evaluated along with soils and vegetation. I developed greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) habitat models using published literature and a fuzzy logic knowledge representation and evaluation system. The resulting outputs were 0-1 scaled indices representing the relative suitability of habitat based on measured habitat attributes in different states of two ecological sites common in NW Colorado, claypan and mountain loam. In Chapter 1, I tested hypotheses related to the habitat suitability of differing states in these two structurally divergent ecological sites. Results support the hypotheses that states with degraded attributes or that were associated with aerial herbicide spraying are generally lower in habitat suitability, and that states with similar components as the reference state do not have significantly different habitat suitability than the reference states. In Chapter 2, I developed sage grouse habitat maps and compared the results with current habitat mapping procedures. The ecological site/STM framework allowed for an understanding of the distribution, abundance, and value of habitat to be linked to management and environmental variation. This work is an important contribution towards incorporating wildlife habitat information into ESDs and understanding trade-offs in wildlife habitat suitability associated with different vegetation states.


Rights Access


ecological sites
fuzzy logic
rangeland management
Sage grouse habitat
state and transition models
wildlife habitat


Associated Publications