Estimating the similarity in space use (spatio-temporal home range overlap) of animals is important for many questions regarding behavioural ecology, wildlife management and conservation. The current methods that calculate joint space use generally do not account for proximity in space use, as all of them rely on the differences between the exact spatial overlay of utilization distributions, while spatial distances between distributions should be considered to truly quantify similarity.
We implemented the earth mover's distance (EMD), a spatially explicit method, that quantifies similarity between utilization distributions by calculating the effort it takes to shape one utilization distribution landscape into another, hence EMD.
The EMD is a method commonly used in image retrieval applications, and we propose its use to calculate similarity in space use in the framework of movement ecology.
We show that the EMD is a consistent and useful as well as versatile measure of overlap and provide an easy to use implementation in the r package move.