Definition of Habitat or Patch Suitability and Quality

A habitat is suitable for a species when it contains all resources needed for a given activity in sufficient quantity (e.g., food when foraging, nest sites when breeding). Individuals can only live in suitable habitats; thus by definition, habitats where individuals are found to live or perform a given activity must be suitable. Habitat suitability can be difficult to define using other criteria

Figure 1 An illustration of environmental spatial heterogeneity defining habitats and habitat patches. In this schematic farmland landscape, portions of the environment are constituted by a river, fields (delimited by straight lines), forests (gray zones), and urban areas (dashed zones), which have very different general physical characteristics and define four different habitats. Within each habitat type, several continuous and homogeneous subareas can be found and define habitat patches: Fo1 to Fo3 (forest), Fi1 to Fi12 (fields), U1 and U2 (urban areas). Patches of the same habitat can vary in quality; for instance, different types of crops may generate different amounts of food or breeding sites availability in different fields.

Figure 1 An illustration of environmental spatial heterogeneity defining habitats and habitat patches. In this schematic farmland landscape, portions of the environment are constituted by a river, fields (delimited by straight lines), forests (gray zones), and urban areas (dashed zones), which have very different general physical characteristics and define four different habitats. Within each habitat type, several continuous and homogeneous subareas can be found and define habitat patches: Fo1 to Fo3 (forest), Fi1 to Fi12 (fields), U1 and U2 (urban areas). Patches of the same habitat can vary in quality; for instance, different types of crops may generate different amounts of food or breeding sites availability in different fields.

than the observed repeated and long-term presence of individuals.

Suitable habitats and patches for a given species can differ by some intrinsic characteristics affecting individuals' fitness (e.g., available resource quantity and quality, level of competition for resources or predation). The quality of a habitat or patch is usually defined by the fitness (measured, e.g., by energy gains per time unit or reproductive output) that can be achieved by individuals in this habitat or patch: a habitat or patch in which individuals achieve high fitness is defined as a high-quality habitat or patch, relative to other habitats and patches. Within the framework of foraging and breeding habitat choice, the quality ofhabitats is usually evaluated in terms of energy intake rate and reproductive success, respectively.

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