Landscape seasonality influences the resource selection of a snow-adapted forest carnivore, the Pacific marten

Abstract

Context

Characterizing animal space-use and resource selection is central to effective conservation. In seasonally variable systems, animals may alter space-use to minimize risk, mediate physiological costs, and maintain access to resources. However, it is often unclear which environmental features influence space-use across seasons, and whether resource selection of non-migratory animals varies in seasonally snow-covered environments.

Objectives

We quantified space-use and scale-dependent resource selection of Pacific martens (Martes caurina) in northern California to evaluate the relative influence of abiotic (e.g., topography, weather) and biotic (e.g., forest structure) covariates on spatial ecology of martens in ecologically distinct seasons (i.e., snow-covered, snow-free).

Methods

We obtained fine-scale location data from GPS-collared martens (n = 26) in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges in California, USA. We incorporated spatially explicit weather, topographic, and forest structure data in a scale-optimized, seasonal resource selection function framework to determine the relative importance of abiotic and biotic conditions during snow-covered and snow-free periods.

Results

During snow-free periods, martens selected for features associated with complex forest structure, including increasing stem basal area. Conversely, space-use was associated with dense forest structure and topographic features in snow-covered periods. Though the relative influence of abiotic and biotic covariates on resource selection varied by season, the scale at which these variables best explained space-use did not.

Conclusions

Our results highlight seasonality and scale-dependence of resource selection by martens and emphasize the importance of understanding spatio-temporal responses of free-ranging animals to landscape heterogeneity. We suggest behavioral or ecological requirements that differ by season and scale may influence space-use and resource selection patterns, and, consequently, can inform conservation actions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank two anonymous reviewers and the handling editor for their constructive feedback which improved the quality of this manuscript. Numerous individuals collected data analyzed in this manuscript, including M. Delheimer, A. Roddy, B. Woodruff, P. Tweedy, E. Caubo, D. Arnold, C. Hutton-Arnold, R. Peterson, I. Davis-Cancellare, G. W. Watts, R. Adamczyk, B. Barry, M. Cokeley, M. Dao, D. Hamilton, L. Kreiensieck, M. Linnell, K. Mansfield, B. Peterson, and C. Wood. We thank the USDA Forest Service Almanor Ranger District for their aid with field logistics. B. Zuckerberg provided feedback during the analytical and editorial process. Additional small grants to support this work were awarded to M. E. Martin by Sequoia Park Zoo and Sacramento-Shasta Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Funding

This research was funded by a cooperative joint venture agreement between the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (17-JV-11261992-010).

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Martin, M.E., Moriarty, K.M. & Pauli, J.N. Landscape seasonality influences the resource selection of a snow-adapted forest carnivore, the Pacific marten. Landscape Ecol 36, 1055–1069 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-021-01215-9

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Keywords

  • Multi-scale
  • Habitat selection
  • Movement ecology
  • Forest management
  • Carnivores
  • Mustelid
  • GPS collars
  • Snow
  • Season
  • Spatial ecology