Why did the bear cross the road? Comparing the performance of multiple resistance surfaces and connectivity modeling methods

Samuel A. Cushman, Jesse S. Lewis, Erin L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


There have been few assessments of the performance of alternative resistance surfaces, and little is known about how connectivity modeling approaches differ in their ability to predict organism movements. In this paper, we evaluate the performance of four connectivity modeling approaches applied to two resistance surfaces in predicting the locations of highway crossings by American black bears in the northern Rocky Mountains, USA. We found that a resistance surface derived directly from movement data greatly outperformed a resistance surface produced from analysis of genetic differentiation, despite their heuristic similarities. Our analysis also suggested differences in the performance of different connectivity modeling approaches. Factorial least cost paths appeared to slightly outperform other methods on the movement-derived resistance surface, but had very poor performance on the resistance surface obtained from multi-model landscape genetic analysis. Cumulative resistant kernels appeared to offer the best combination of high predictive performance and sensitivity to differences in resistance surface parameterization. Our analysis highlights that even when two resistance surfaces include the same variables and have a high spatial correlation of resistance values, they may perform very differently in predicting animal movement and population connectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)844-854
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • American black bear
  • Functional connectivity
  • Least cost path
  • Resistant kernel
  • Synoptic connectivity modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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