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Managing forests and forest carnivores: Canada lynx and forest mosaics

Date: September 07, 2018

Differences in forest structure impact the ability of Canada lynx to produce kittens. Therefore, understanding how forest management and silviculture can improve the demography of Canada lynx is central to the species’ conservation on multiple-use lands

A lynx kitten is shown coming out from under deadfall
A key part of conservation efforts is understanding reproductive ecology and kitten survival.
Canada lynx, a federally-listed species, is sensitive to changes in forest structure. Forest structure influences prey such as snowshoe hares and ultimately the ability of Canada lynx to forage and produce kittens. Therefore, we need to understand how forest management can be used to further lynx conservation into the foreseeable future. In our research, we first investigated how lynx responded to changes in forest structure in terms of their habitat-use. We then evaluated how lynx responded to different silvicultural treatments in terms of years since harvest and tree-harvest methods. In addition, we assessed how changes in forest structure affected the ability of lynx to produce kittens and how forest management could be used to serve Canada lynx conservation efforts. This research required close collaboration between scientists, silviculturists, and wildlife biologists to achieve our goals. Together, we developed forest mapping tools based on remote sensing to map forest structure and composition across broad landscapes. We captured and instrumented Canada lynx with global positioning system (GPS) collars to accurately plot their movements and habitat use. By using the GPS technology, we were also able to locate dens and record the number of kittens each female produced over the years. Armed with this information, we built statistical models that not only predicted how lynx use forested landscapes, but also how forest structure related to a female’s ability to produce kittens.
A lynx walks through a snowy forest, shown with a tracking collar
GPS technology was instrumental in tracking lynx for this study.

Key Findings

  • Canada lynx depend primarily on spruce-fir forests and a home range dominated by mature, multi-storied forest structures and intermediate amounts (e.g., 10 - 40 percent) of regenerating forests produced by forest management and natural disturbance.
  • Canada lynx use habitat treated by thinning approximately 20 years post-harvest, but it takes approximately 40 years of recovery for lynx to use regenerating forest treatments (clear-cuts and selection cuts).
  • Home ranges of Canada lynx are composed of a mosaic of forest structures, and the amount of connected mature forest ( ≈50-60 percent)  is important to the ability of female lynx to produce kittens.
  • Canada lynx conservation and forest management are compatible within multiple-use lands, but a careful approach is needed that integrates both forest silviculture and species conservation.

Other Publications

Kosterman, M.K., Squires, J.R., Holbrook, J.D., Pletscher, D.H., Hebblewhite, M., 2018. Forest structure provides the income for reproductive success in a southern population of Canada lynx. Ecol. Appl. 28, 1032–1043. doi:10.1002/eap.1707

Holbrook, J.D., Squires, J.R., Olson, L.E., DeCesare, N.J., Lawrence, R.L., 2017. Understanding and predicting habitat for wildlife conservation: the case of Canada lynx at the range periphery. Ecosphere 8, e01939. doi:10.1002/ecs2.1939

Holbrook, J.D., Squires, J.R., Olson, L.E., Lawrence, R.L., Savage, S.L., 2017. Multiscale habitat relationships of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) in the mixed conifer landscape of the Northern Rockies, USA: Cross-scale effects of horizontal cover with implications for forest management. Ecol. Evol. 7, 125–144. doi:10.1002/ece3.2651

Featured Publications

Holbrook, Joseph D. ; Squires, John R. ; Bollenbacher, Barry ; Graham, Russell T. ; Olson, Lucretia E. ; Hanvey, Gary ; Jackson, Scott ; Lawrence, Rick L. , 2018

Principal Investigators - External: 
Dr. Joseph Holbrook - Forest Service - retired
Dr. Rick Lawrence - Spatial Sciences Center
Dr. Shannon Savage - Research Scientist
Forest Service Partners: 
Scott Jackson – National Carnivore Program Leader, U. S. Forest Service
Gary Hanvey – Canada Lynx Wildlife Biologist, R1, U. S. Forest Service
Barry Bollenbacher – Regional Forester (Retired), R1, U. S. Forest Service
Shelagh Fox, Regional Forester, R1, U. S. Forest Service