, Volume 131, Issue 6, pp 1783-1795,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 02 Jun 2012

Hazel Grouse occurrence in fragmented forests: habitat quantity and configuration is more important than quality

Abstract

Forest fragmentation has led to a decline in the population of many forest specialists, especially those with limited dispersal abilities. However, some of these species also occur in fragmented forests, and their response to fragmentation is crucial to understand the impact of this process in maintaining forest biodiversity. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of habitat quality, quantity and configuration on the occurrence of Hazel Grouse as the model species. Studies were performed in the Carpathian Foothills (900 km2, 15 % forested). Between 2000 and 2010, Hazel Grouse were detected in 25 out of 53 forest patches with high repeatability over time. Among the indices of habitat quality, the most important factors were the presence of bilberries, clearings and pioneer trees. Greater number and length of valleys also had a positive effect on the occurrence of grouse. All habitat quantity and landscape configuration variables influenced the presence of grouse positively (related to forest connectivity) or negatively (related to forest isolation). Among the explanatory variables considered, habitat quantity and landscape variables were much more important in explaining the occurrence of Hazel Grouse than variables related to habitat quality. The study shows that habitat acreage and its connectivity are crucial for the conservation and management of Hazel Grouse populations in fragmented landscapes, and therefore, it is necessary to sustain wooded corridors between larger forest patches.

Communicated by G. Brazaitis.