Spatially explicit modeling of annual and seasonal habitat for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Nevada and Northeastern California—An updated decision-support tool for management

Open-File Report 2016-1080
Prepared in cooperation with the State of Nevada Sagebrush Ecosystem Program, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Department of Wildlife, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Idaho State University
By: , and 



Successful adaptive management hinges largely upon integrating new and improved sources of information as they become available. As a timely example of this tenet, we updated a management decision support tool that was previously developed for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus, hereinafter referred to as “sage-grouse”) populations in Nevada and California. Specifically, recently developed spatially explicit habitat maps derived from empirical data played a key role in the conservation of this species facing listing under the Endangered Species Act. This report provides an updated process for mapping relative habitat suitability and management categories for sage-grouse in Nevada and northeastern California (Coates and others, 2014, 2016). These updates include: (1) adding radio and GPS telemetry locations from sage-grouse monitored at multiple sites during 2014 to the original location dataset beginning in 1998; (2) integrating output from high resolution maps (1–2 m2) of sagebrush and pinyon-juniper cover as covariates in resource selection models; (3) modifying the spatial extent of the analyses to match newly available vegetation layers; (4) explicit modeling of relative habitat suitability during three seasons (spring, summer, winter) that corresponded to critical life history periods for sage-grouse (breeding, brood-rearing, over-wintering); (5) accounting for differences in habitat availability between more mesic sagebrush steppe communities in the northern part of the study area and drier Great Basin sagebrush in more southerly regions by categorizing continuous region-wide surfaces of habitat suitability index (HSI) with independent locations falling within two hydrological zones; (6) integrating the three seasonal maps into a composite map of annual relative habitat suitability; (7) deriving updated land management categories based on previously determined cut-points for intersections of habitat suitability and an updated index of sage-grouse abundance and space-use (AUI); and (8) masking urban footprints and major roadways out of the final map products.

Seasonal habitat maps were generated based on model-averaged resource selection functions (RSF) derived for 10 project areas (813 sage-grouse; 14,085 locations) during the spring season, 10 during the summer season (591 sage-grouse, 11,743 locations), and 7 during the winter season (288 sage-grouse, 4,862 locations). RSF surfaces were transformed to HSIs and averaged in a GIS framework for every pixel for each season. Validation analyses of categorized HSI surfaces using a suite of independent datasets resulted in an agreement of 93–97 percent for habitat versus non-habitat on an annual basis. Spring and summer maps validated similarly well at 94–97 percent, while winter maps validated slightly less accurately at 87–93 percent.

We then provide an updated example of how space use models can be integrated with habitat models to help inform conservation planning. We used updated lek count data to calculate a composite abundance and space use index (AUI) that comprised the combination of probabilistic breeding density with a non-linear probability of occurrence relative to distance to nearest lek. The AUI was then classified into two categories of use (high and low-to-no) and intersected with the HSI categories to create potential management prioritization scenarios based on information about sage-grouse occupancy coupled with habitat suitability. Compared to Coates and others (2014, 2016), the amount of area classified as habitat across the region increased by 6.5 percent (approximately 1,700,000 acres). For management categories, core increased by 7.2 percent (approximately 865,000 acres), priority increased by 9.6 percent (approximately 855,000 acres), and general increased by 9.2 percent (approximately 768,000 acres), while non-habitat decreased (that is, classified non-habitat occurring outside of areas of concentrated use) by 11.9 percent (approximately 2,500,000 acres). Importantly, seasonal and annual maps represent habitat for all age and sex classes of sage-grouse (that is, sample sizes of marked grouse were insufficient to only construct models for reproductive females). This revised sage-grouse habitat mapping product helps improve adaptive application of conservation planning tools based on intersections of spatially explicit habitat suitability, abundance, and space use indices.

Suggested Citation

Coates, P.S., Casazza, M.L., Brussee B.E., Ricca, M.A., Gustafson, K.B., Sanchez-Chopitea, E., Mauch, K., Niell, L., Gardner, S., Espinosa, S., and Delehanty, D.J., 2016, Spatially explicit modeling of annual and seasonal habitat for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Nevada and Northeastern California—An updated decision-support tool for management: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016-1080, 160 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods and Results
  • Changes in habitat and management area size
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes A-AA
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Spatially explicit modeling of annual and seasonal habitat for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Nevada and Northeastern California—An updated decision-support tool for management
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2016-1080
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161080
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description Report: viii, 160 p.; Dataset
Country United States
State California, Nevada
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details