Published November 17, 2022 | Version v1
Dataset Open

LiDAR reveals a preference for intermediate visibility by a forest-dwelling ungulate species: Deer locational data

  • 1. University of Twente
  • 2. Bavarian Forest National Park


  1. Visibility (viewshed) plays a significant and diverse role in animals' behavior and fitness. Understanding how visibility influences animal behavior requires the measurement of habitat visibility at spatial scales commensurate to individual animal choices. However, measuring habitat visibility at a fine spatial scale over a landscape is a challenge, particularly in highly heterogeneous landscapes (e.g., forests). As a result, our ability to model the influence of fine-scale visibility on animal behavior has been impeded or limited.
  2. In this study, we demonstrate the application of the concept of 3D cumulative viewshed in the study of animal spatial behavior at a landscape level. Specifically, we employed a newly described approach that combines terrestrial and airborne LiDAR to measure fine-scale habitat visibility (3D cumulative viewshed) on a continuous scale in forested landscapes. We applied the LiDAR-derived visibility to investigate how visibility in forests affects the summer habitat selection and the movement of 20 GPS-collared female red deer Cervus elaphus in a temperate forest in Germany. We used integrated step selection analysis to determine whether red deer show any preference for fine-scale habitat visibility and whether visibility is related to the rate of movement of red deer.
  3. We found that red deer selected intermediate habitat visibility. Their preferred level of visibility during the day was substantially lower than that of night and twilight, whereas the preference was not significantly different between night and twilight. In addition, red deer moved faster in high-visibility areas, possibly mainly to avoid predation and anthropogenic risk. Furthermore, red deer moved most rapidly between locations in the twilight.
  4. For the first time, the preference for intermediate habitat visibility and the adaption of movement rate to fine-scale visibility by a forest-dwelling ungulate species at a landscape scale was revealed. The LiDAR technique used in this study offers fine-scale habitat visibility at the landscape level in forest ecosystems, which would be of broader interest in the fields of animal ecology and behavior.


This dataset was used to perform integrated step selection analysis for red deer in the article "LiDAR reveals a preference for intermediate visibility by a forest-dwelling ungulate species". The meaning of each column in the dataset can be found in the related article and accompanying README file.

Funding provided by: China Scholarship Council
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: 201704910852

Funding provided by: European Research Council
Crossref Funder Registry ID:
Award Number: 834709 H2020-EU.1.1.


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