Cumulative effects of forestry on habitat use by gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the boreal forest
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- Houle, M., Fortin, D., Dussault, C. et al. Landscape Ecol (2010) 25: 419. doi:10.1007/s10980-009-9420-2
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Forest harvesting involves the creation of roads and cutblocks, both of which can influence animal habitat use. We evaluated the cumulative effects of forestry on habitat selection by six packs of gray wolf (Canis lupus) widely distributed in Quebec’s boreal forest. Resource selection functions were used to evaluate cumulative effects at two levels. First, we studied how the response of wolves to roads and cutblocks varied within their home range (HR level) as a function of the local abundance of these habitat features. Second, we assessed whether differences in the response to roads and cutblocks observed among packs (inter-HR level) could be explained by variations in their average abundance among individual home ranges. At the HR level, we found that cumulative effects shaped habitat selection of wolves, and the nature of the effects varied during the year. For example, we detected a decrease in the selection of roads following an increase in local road density during the rendez-vous and the nomadic periods, but not during the denning period. At the inter-HR level, we found a functional response to logging activity only during the denning period. Packs with home ranges characterized by a larger proportion of recent cutblocks selected these cutblocks more strongly. We conclude that cumulative effects of logging activities occur at multiple levels, and these effects can have profound effects on habitat use by wolves, thereby influencing spatial predator–prey dynamics. Wildlife conservation and management in boreal ecosystems should thus account for cumulative impacts of anthropogenic features on animal distribution.