Noninvasive genetic sampling has become the most effective way to reliably sample occurrence of many species. In addition, genetic data provide a rich data source enabling the monitoring of population status. Collecting genetically based animal data along with information on vegetation and topography enables the development of habitat relationships and evaluation of population attributes. Scientists can use these data to develop statistical models, monitor animal populations, and evaluate habitat connectivity.
RMRS scientists are researching factors that are important for managing the federally threatened Canada lynx, which can be negatively affected by human caused disturbances and climate change. One key factor is maintaining connectivity so that lynx can move between populations. Recent research revealed only a few corridors of lynx habitat between Canada and the conterminous US. Maintaining the integrity of these connectivity corridors is of primary importance to lynx conservation in the Northern Rockies.
Rocky Mountain Research Station scientists have shown that historical wolverine distribution was highly correlated with persistent snow. Genetic analysis reinforced these understandings and showed that the occurrence patterns had been present for at least 2,000 years. Wolverine's snow association is likely due to the location of reproductive dens in snow. Researchers collaborated to project snow patterns into the future and determine the likely effects of snow cover changes on wolverines.
An analysis of potential national effects of climate change on wildlife habitat is being addressed by RMRS scientists through the estimation of an index of climate change stress to terrestrial biodiversity in order to identify regional hotspots of climate change impacts. This research focuses on management strategies for climate change in the states' Wildlife Action Plans.