Experimental evidence that simplified forest structure interacts with snow cover to influence functional connectivity for Pacific martens Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/articles/df65v946d

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  • Context: Functional connectivity—the facilitation of individual movements among habitat patches—is essential for species’ persistence in fragmented landscapes. Evaluating functional connectivity is critical for predicting range shifts, developing conservation plans, and anticipating effects of disturbance, especially for species affected by climate change. Objectives: We examined whether simplifying forest structure influenced animal movements and whether an experimental approach to quantifying functional connectivity reflects normal behavior, which is often assumed but remains untested. Methods: We evaluated functional connectivity for Pacific marten (Martes caurina) across a gradient in forest structural complexity using two novel methods for this species: incentivized food-titration experiments and non-incentivized locations collected via GPS telemetry (24 individuals). Results: Food titration experiments revealed martens selected complex stands, and martens entered and crossed areas with reduced forest cover when motivated by bait, particularly in the winter. However, our telemetry data showed that without such incentive, martens avoided openings and simple stands and selected complex forest stands equally during summer and winter. Conclusions: Detections at baited stations may not represent typical habitat preferences during winter, and incentivized experiments reflect the capacity of martens to enter non-preferred stand types under high motivation (e.g., hunger, curiosity, dispersal). We hypothesize snow cover facilitates connectivity across openings when such motivation is present; thus, snow cover may benefit dispersing animals and increase population connectivity. Landscapes with joined networks of complex stands are crucial for maintaining functional connectivity for marten, particularly during summer.
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  • Moriarty, K. M., Epps, C. W., Betts, M. G., Hance, D. J., Bailey, J. D., & Zielinski, W. J. Experimental evidence that simplified forest structure interacts with snow cover to influence functional connectivity for Pacific martens. Landscape Ecology, 30(10), 1865-1877. doi:10.1007/s10980-015-0216-2
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