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Management of forests and forest carnivores: Relating landscape mosaics to habitat quality of Canada lynx at their range periphery

Posted date: October 02, 2019
Publication Year: 
2019
Authors: Holbrook, Joseph D.; Squires, John R.; Bollenbacher, Barry; Graham, Russ; Olson, Lucretia E.; Hanvey, Gary; Jackson, Scott; Lawrence, Rick L.; Savage, Shannon L.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 437: 411-425.

Abstract

Connecting forest management with the conservation of forest-associated animals requires an understanding of habitat quality, as well as identifying long-term silvicultural strategies that align with high quality habitat. It is, therefore, essential to characterize the spatio-temporal dimensions of habitat quality. Here, we leveraged multiple datasets to assess high quality habitat for female Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), a federally threatened forest carnivore in the contiguous U.S. Our datasets included a spatially extensive sample of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) collected in 2013 (n=1340 plots), an expansive time-series (i.e., 1972–2013) of forest structural classes derived from remote sensing, and a longitudinal dataset where we monitored habitat use and the reproductive success (i.e., litter of kittens present or absent) of female Canada lynx during 1999–2013 (n=32 female lynx over 92 lynx years). Our results indicated that the probability of a female producing kittens was most associated with the connectivity of mature, multistoried forests (composed of mostly spruce-fir). However, the variation among female lynx accounted for ≈62% of the total variation explained in litter production, suggesting substantial individual-level variation. Thus, managers can contribute to increased reproductive success of female Canada lynx by facilitating the development of mature forests, but measuring that success will be difficult given the individual variation. In core areas of high quality females (i.e., produced kittens frequently), mature forest was 17% more abundant (i.e., ≈60% of the total core area), more connected, less clumpy, and exhibited 2.25-times larger patch sizes than the core areas of low quality females. At the homerange extent, patterns were less pronounced while the abundance of mature forests remained high (≈50%) for high quality females. Additionally, we demonstrated that the relative density of snowshoe hares was ≥2.8 times higher in advanced regenerating forests compared to all other structural classes, including mature forest. Advanced regenerating forests accounted for ≈18–19% of the core area and home range of high quality female lynx. Combined, our results suggest that a high quality mosaic for female Canada lynx contains ≈50–60% mature forest and ≈18–19% advanced regenerating forest. Furthermore, we used Forest Inventory and Analysis data to characterize the approximate age distribution of advanced regeneration and mature forest, which was relevant for rotation schedules of forest silviculture. Results indicated that advanced regeneration was ≈20 to 80 years old while mature forest was ≈50 to ≥200 years old. Our results provide novel insight into how forest management could increase habitat quality for female Canada lynx, and suggest that multiple silvicultural methods (e.g., intermediate treatments, regeneration harvests) could be employed to maintain a forest mosaic that enhances the ability of females to produce kittens. We concluded by providing a framework that integrates our new insights into a management context with the aim of conserving Canada lynx on multiple-use lands.

Citation

Holbrook, Joseph D.; Squires, John R.; Bollenbacher, Barry; Graham, Russ; Olson, Lucretia E.; Hanvey, Gary; Jackson, Scott; Lawrence, Rick L.; Savage, Shannon L. 2019. Management of forests and forest carnivores: Relating landscape mosaics to habitat quality of Canada lynx at their range periphery. Forest Ecology and Management. 437: 411-425.