Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Global positioning system (GPS) technologies collect unprecedented volumes of animal location data, providing ever greater insight into animal behaviour. Despite a certain degree of inherent imprecision and bias in GPS locations, little synthesis regarding the predominant causes of these errors, their implications for ecological analysis or solutions exists. Terrestrial deployments report 37 per cent or less non-random data loss and location precision 30 m or less on average, with canopy closure having the predominant effect, and animal behaviour interacting with local habitat conditions to affect errors in unpredictable ways. Home-range estimates appear generally robust to contemporary levels of location imprecision and bias, whereas movement paths and inferences of habitat selection may readily become misleading. There is a critical need for greater understanding of the additive or compounding effects of location imprecision, fix-rate bias, and, in the case of resource selection, map error on ecological insights. Technological advances will help, but at present analysts have a suite of ad hoc statistical corrections and modelling approaches available—tools that vary greatly in analytical complexity and utility. The success of these solutions depends critically on understanding the error-inducing mechanisms, and the biggest gap in our current understanding involves species-specific behavioural effects on GPS performance.
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