Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Missouri
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Weller, F.G., E.B. Webb, S. Fogenburg, W. S. Beatty, D. Kesler, R.H. Blenk, K.M. Ringelman, M.L. Miller and J.M. Eadie. An agent-based model to quantify energetics, movements and habitat selection of mid-continent mallards in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Ecological Modeling


The dynamics of wintering waterfowl populations at the landscape scale are the result of complex interactions of environmental, behavioral and energetic drivers. Agent-based models provide a method to directly link these factors in a spatially explicit framework and allow the emergence of subtle or non-linear patterns from the aggregation of individual agent actions. We adapted the Spatially-explicit Waterbird Agent-based Model Program (SWAMP), originally developed for waterbirds in central California, to simulate a basin-scale population of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) wintering in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley over a four-month period (November–February). Simulated agents move within the landscape, foraging on areas made available conditional on a probabilistic inundation status, and depleting food resources. The model uses a high-resolution map of eastern Arkansas waterfowl habitats and incorporates a hierarchical habitat selection system that enables mallards to relocate at increasing scales in response to changing food availability. We validated the performance of modeled mallard body condition and behavioral metrics under different environmental conditions against expected outcomes, and found that the simulation produced realistic representations of changes in flight distances, energy expenditure, lipid storage, and foraging habitat use in response to depleting food resources over time. We discuss the model's applicability as a tool to quantify waterfowl response to a range of environmental conditions and evaluate scenarios of landscape composition and configuration in the context of waterfowl population management.