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Regional variation in home-range-scale habitat models for fisher (Martes pennanti) in California

Regional variation in home-range-scale habitat models for fisher (Martes pennanti) in California

Ecological Applications 17(8): 2195-2213

We analyzed recent survey data and mapped environmental variables integrated over a home range scale of 10 km2 to model the distribution of fisher (Martes pennanti) habitat in California, USA. Our goal was to identify habitat factors associated with the current distribution of fishers in California, and to test whether those factors differ for widely disjunct northern and southern populations. Our analyses were designed to probe whether poor habitat quality can explain the current absence of fishers in the historically occupied central and northern Sierra Nevada region that separates these two populations. Fishers were detected at 64/433 (14.8%) sample units, including 35/111 (32%) of sample units in the Klamath/Shasta region and 28/88 (32%) of sample units in the southern Sierra Nevada. Generalized additive models (GAM) that included mean annual precipitation, topographic relief, forest structure, and a spatial autocovariate term best predicted fisher detections over the species' recent historical range in California. Models derived using forest structure data from ground plots were comparable to models derived from Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery. Models for the disjunct Klamath/Cascades and southern Sierra Nevada populations selected different environmental factors and showed low agreement in the spatial pattern of model predictions. Including a spatial autocovariate term significantly improved model fits for all models except the southern Sierra Nevada. We cannot rule out dispersal or habitat in explaining the absence of fishers in the northern and central Sierra Nevada, but mapped habitat quality is low over much of the region. Landscapes with good fisher habitat may exist in rugged forested canyons of the currently unoccupied northern Sierra Nevada, but these areas are fragmented and at least 60 km from the nearest recent fisher detections.

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Accession: 055445097

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PMID: 18213963

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