A multilayer perspective for inferring spatial and social functioning in animal movement networks

Mourier, Johann and Lédée, Elodie J. I. and Jacoby, David M. P. (2019) A multilayer perspective for inferring spatial and social functioning in animal movement networks. Biorxiv.

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Animal movement patterns are increasingly analysed as spatial networks. Currently, structures of complex movements are typically represented as a single-layer (or monoplex) network. However, aggregating individual movements, to generate population-level inferences, considerably reduces information on how individual or species variability influences spatial connectivity and thus identifying the mechanisms driving network structure remains difficult. Here, we propose incorporating the recent conceptual advances in multilayer network analyses with the existing movement network approach to improve our understanding of the complex interaction between spatial and/or social drivers of animal movement patterns. Specifically, we explore the application and interpretation of this framework using an empirical example of shark movement data gathered using passive remote sensors in a coral reef ecosystem. We first show how aggregating individual movement networks can lead to the loss of information, potentially misleading our interpretation of movement patterns. We then apply multilayer network analyses linking individual movement networks (i.e. layers) to the probabilities of social contact between individuals (i.e. interlayer edges) in order to explore the functional significance of different locations to an animal’s ecology. This approach provides a novel and holistic framework incorporating individual variability in behaviour and inter-individual interactions. We discuss how this approach can be used in applied ecology and conservation to better assess the ecological significance of variable space use by mobile animals within a population. Further, we argue that the uptake of multilayer networks will significantly broaden our understanding of long-term ecological and evolutionary processes, particularly in the context of information or disease transfer between individuals.

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14 Feb 2022 16:10
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21 Sep 2023 03:13