Habitat use and movement behavior of Pacific marten (Martes caurina) in response to forest management practices in Lassen National Forest, California Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9c67wr61d

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  • Some of the most pressing conservation concerns involve declining populations of species with low fecundity and highly specialized foraging and reproductive requirements. Yet, we often lack a functional understanding of how individuals of those species interact with their environment, specifically how their movement is affected by human-induced changes. In order to maintain connectivity and viable populations, public land managers require science to inform how changes in structure affect the individual movements and thus population connectivity of sensitive species. I collected detailed movement data on Pacific martens (Martes caurina) in Lassen National Forest, California, during 2010-2013. Martens are small carnivores that are closely associated with old forest elements (e.g., large snags and logs). Marten populations rapidly decline with loss and fragmentation of forest cover. As such, martens are a U.S. Forest Service Management Indicator Species and a Species of Special Concern in the state of California. My goal was to understand martens' behavior in forest patches that were altered by thinning to remove ladder fuels-small diameter trees, understory vegetation, and branches near the ground. Such fuels treatments are increasingly prevalent on public lands, especially in dry forests, to reduce risk of high-severity and high-intensity fire. Although previous research suggested martens selection for dense forest and avoid gaps in forest cover, no information was available describing martens' use of simplified thinned patches. The objectives of my dissertation were to: (1) test whether marten movement and activity could accurately be measured using miniature GPS collars, and (2) evaluate marten use, selection, and behavior in patches that differed in structural complexity. Global positioning system (GPS) telemetry provides opportunities to collect detailed information from free-ranging animals with a high degree of precision and accuracy. Miniature GPS collars (42-60g) have only been available since 2009 for mammals and have not been consistently effective. Furthermore, all GPS units suffer from non-random data loss and location error, which is often exacerbated by dense vegetation. Given these constraints, it was questionable whether GPS collars would be an effective tool for studying martens. In Chapter 1, I evaluated how satellite data and environmental conditions affected performance of GPS units. I used a paired experimental design and programmed the GPS unit to retain or remove satellite data before attempting a location (fix). I found that short intervals between fix attempts significantly increased the likelihood of fix success. Locations estimated using at least 4 satellites were, on average, within 28 m of the actual location regardless of vegetation cover. Thus, location estimates at short intervals with >4 satellites were not typically biased by dense vegetation. Accurate fine-scale information on martens was necessary to quantify and interpret patch use and habitat selection. I evaluated martens’ use and behavior in three forest patch types that differed in structural complexity (complex, simple, and open). In Chapter 2, I quantified use patch use in two seasons–summer and winter. I used food-titration experiments to standardize motivation of martens to enter different patch types and compared these short-term incentivized experiments with year-round observational telemetry data (GPS and very high frequency telemetry). Martens selected complex patches and avoided both simple patches and openings, but not equivalently–openings were strongly avoided. With baited incentive, martens were more likely to enter simple patches and openings during winter, when deep snow was present. Because marten patch use differed during winter, I concluded that researchers should use caution when using seasonally collected data to create year-round habitat models. Overall, movement was most limited during summer when predation risk likely deterred martens from moving through simple patches and openings. In Chapter 3, I quantified habitat selection and marten behavior using fine-scale movement data. I evaluated movement-based habitat selection at two scales: (1) selection of home ranges within landscapes and (2) selection of patches within the home ranges. I characterized marten movement patterns and tested whether variance, speed, and sinuosity of movements differed by patch, sex, and season. Martens selected home ranges with fewer openings than available in the landscape, and selected complex patches over simple patches and openings within their home range. On average, martens moved approximately 7 km per day and greater than 1 km per hour – which is notably high for a 600-1000g mammal. Martens moved more slowly, consistently, and sinuously in complex patches. In openings, martens traveled linearly with greater variance in their speed. In simple patches, movement generally was linear and rapid with some variation. I hypothesized that martens used complex patches for foraging and acquisition of resources, traveled through simple patches with the potential for infrequent foraging bouts, and very infrequently crossed openings. Although I found some differences in movement behavior between sexes and seasons, behavior was generally consistent for both sexes in different patch types. I provide general conclusions in Chapter 4 and discuss considerations for future research and management.
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