Movement Ecology

One key mechanism which shapes biodiversity patterns and ecosystem functions and which can be affected by land use and climate change is the movement of organisms. Thereby, organisms are able to compensate for environmental alterations via their movement. For example, in fragmented landscapes organismal movement can counterbalance the negative effects of landscape modifications and can lead to population survival.

Animal movement in dynamic

Animal movement in dynamic agricultural landscapes

In Europe land use change in terms of agricultural intensification is the main reason threatening farmland biodiversity and affecting organismal movement. Furthermore, related ecosystem functions, such as pollination, and pest control, are also negatively affected by an intensified agriculture. At a local scale agricultural intensification is related to an increasing use of pesticides and mineral fertilizers and at the landscape scale there is a loss of semi-natural habitats. We studied the causal relationships between land use change and animal movement to provide well-adapted management implications for species conservation. As model organisms we used the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus), which is a synanthropic species, but also shows declining population densities. Hares were tracked using GPS devices with an integrated accelerometer. Based on the movement data, we analysed the impact of landscape complexity, vegetation structure local management, and weather on home range size and shape, as well as on animal behaviour to answer the question what are the animals doing where.

Projects and cooperation partners

AgroScapeLabs (AGRicultural landSCAPE LABoratorieS) (since 2012)


Ullmann, W., Fischer, C., Kramer-Schadt, S., Pirhofer-Walzl, K., Glemnitz, M. & Blaum, N. (2020) How do agricultural practices affect the movement behaviour of European brown hares (Lepus europaeus)? Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment, 292, 106819, DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2020.106819

Mayer, M., Ullmann, W., Heinrich, R., Fischer, C., Blaum, N. & Sunde, P. (2019) Seasonal effects of habitat structure and weather on the habitat selection and home range size of a mammal in agricultural landscapes. Landscape Ecology, 34, 2279–2294, DOI: 10.1007/s10980-019-00878-9

Noonan, M.J. et al. (2019) A comprehensive analysis of autocorrelation and bias in home range estimation. Ecological Monographs. 89, e01344. DOI: 10.1002/ecm.1344

Mayer, M., Ullmann, W., Fischer, C., Sunde, P. & Blaum, N. (2018) Habitat selection by the European hare in arable landscapes: The importance of small-scale habitat structure for conservation. Ecology and Evolution. 8, 11619-11633. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.4613

Ullmann, W., Fischer, C., Kramer-Schadt, S., Pirhofer-Walzl, K. & Blaum, N. (2018) Spatiotemporal variability in resources affect herbivore home range formation in structurally contrasting and unpredictable agricultural landscapes. Landscape Ecology. 33, 1505-1517. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-018-0676-2

Tucker, M.A. et al. (115 authors) (2018) Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements. Science. 359, 466-469. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9712

Movement ecology of Afrotropical

Movement ecology of Afrotropical birds

In tropical East-Africa a high human population pressure and the related demand for resources leads to the fragmentation of natural habitats due to human activities. For example, riparian thickets are threatened by the conversion into agricultural land. We observed species specific movement, as well as temporal changes in movement behavior of riparian bird species. Movement behavior and habitat use was assessed by visual observations or by radio tracking of birds which are mainly specialized to forest habitats. Based on these data, we analyzed habitat use and habitat preferences (agricultural area vs. indigenous thickets vs. thickets invaded by an alien plant species), as well as movement behavior of birds in relation to human disturbances.

Projects and cooperation partners

DAAD-Quality Network Biodiversity Kenya “Reconciling human livelihood needs and nature conservation in East African forest biodiversity hotspots” (2016 – 2019)

  • Responsible for the work package “Movement Ecology and Mobile Links”
  • Studies on the impact of human land use and habitat degradation on the movement behavior of (endemic) bird species and food web structure
  • Together with: Prof. J.C. Habel (Evolutionary Zoology, University Salzburg)


Habel, J.C., Tobias, J.A., & Fischer, C. (2019) Movement ecology of afrotropical birds: Functional traits provide complementary insights to species identity. Biotropica, 51, 894-902. DOI: 10.1111/btp.12702

Fischer, C. & Habel, J.C. (2018) Comparison between telemetry and spot-mapping to determine space use of the Kenyan endemic Hinde’s babbler. Journal of Tropical Ecology. 34, 395-399. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467418000354

Habel, J.C., Teucher, M., Rödder, D., Bleicher, M.-T., Dieckow, C., Wiese, A. & Fischer, C. (2016) Kenyan endemic bird species at home in novel ecosystem. Ecology and Evolution. 6, 2494–2505. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2038

Habel, J.C., Hillen, J., Schmitt, T. & Fischer, C. (2016) Restricted movements and high site fidelity in three East African cloud-forest birds. Journal of Tropical Ecology. 32, 83-87. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467415000516

Habel, J.C., Teucher, M., Pschonny, S., Rost, S. & Fischer, C. (2015) Beyond prime areas of nature protection in East Africa: conservation ecology of a narrowly distributed Kenyan endemic bird species. Biodiversity and Conservation. 24, 3071-3082. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-015-0998-1

Teucher, M., Fischer, C., Busch, C., Horn, M., Igl, J., Kerner, J., Müller, A., Mulwa, R. K. & Habel, J. C. (2015) A Kenyan endemic bird species Turdoides hindei at home in invasive thickets. Basic and Applied Ecology, 16, 180-188. DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2015.01.002