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Can scale-dependent landcover relationships explain canid community composition independent of intraguild occupancy?

Abstract

Context

Niche theory is frequently used as a framework to integrate environmental variables and species interactions to describe species geographic distribution. Yet, the scale at which species respond to the environment and other species is rarely considered in species distribution modeling. Here we examined the effect of spatial scale on species distribution modeling for a multi-species canid community across a complex landscape.

Objectives

We examined the relationships between the occurrence of three canid species and landcover variables at different spatial scales and tested the effect of intraguild co-occurrence of dominant species (coyote and red fox) on the distribution of the smallest and subordinate species (swift fox), a species of conservation concern in North America’s grasslands.

Methods

We predicted the geographical distribution of the canid species and their responses to variation in the landscape by identifying how species associate with habitat and at what scales. We modeled occupancy of each species with a Bayesian approach and incorporating Bayesian Latent Indicator Scale Selection to identify ‘scales of effect’ independently by species and land cover type.

Results

We demonstrated that each species responded uniquely to the landcover features examined at different scales and expressed distinct habitat relationships. We obtained low detection rates for all canid species (0.10–0.14). Mean occupancy probabilities for both fox species were low (< 0.05), especially when compared to coyote (> 0.60).We found no evidence of intraguild co-occurrence affecting the subordinate species.

Conclusions

We demonstrate substantial variation in the spatial scales of the species-habitat relationships. The distribution of swift fox appears more limited by resource availability that is reflected by larger landscape attributes than the presence or absence of other guild members per se.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was received from Federal aid in Wildlife Restoration (W-101-R-1), administered by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Nebraska Department of Roads (RHE-05), the Nebraska Environmental Trust, Prairie Biotic Research, and the U.S. Forest Service – Nebraska National Forest. Additional salary support for L.C. was made possible through the Arthur William Sampson Fellowship from the University of Nebraska. We want to thank K. Decker, S. Wilson, D. Shizuka, L. Powell, and M. Culver for their comments and support. Thanks to the landowners across western Nebraska for welcoming us into their lands and to all the technicians and field assistants who helped collect the data of this study. The Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is supported by a cooperative agreement among the U.S. Geological Survey, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the University of Nebraska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Wildlife Management Institute.

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Correspondence to Lucia Corral.

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Supplementary file2 Map of survey locations (n = 902; red squares) distributed within the historical range of swift fox (Vulpes velox) in Nebraska, U.S. (TIFF 233771 kb)

10980_2021_1350_MOESM3_ESM.tiff

Supplementary file3 Relationship between red fox and coyote detection/non-detection and swift fox occupancy probability. Solid lines represent mean marginal effects and the dashed lines represent the 95% credible intervals (TIFF 8757 kb)

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Corral, L., Stuber, E.F., Frink, T.J. et al. Can scale-dependent landcover relationships explain canid community composition independent of intraguild occupancy?. Landscape Ecol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-021-01350-3

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Keywords

  • Camera trap
  • Canids
  • Hierarchical Bayesian models
  • Multi-scale
  • Species habitat relationship
  • Species distribution models
  • Swift fox
  • Vulpes velox