Describing vegetation characteristics used by two rare forest-dwelling species
Moriarty KM, Verschuyl J, Kroll AJ, Davis R, Chapman J, Hollen B (2019) Describing vegetation characteristics used by two rare forest-dwelling species: Will established reserves provide for coastal marten in Oregon? PLoS ONE 14(1): e0210865. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210865
Forest management guidelines for rare or declining species in the Pacific Northwest, USA, include both late successional reserves and specific vegetation management criteria. However, whether current management practices for well-studied species such as northern spotted owls (Strix occidentallis caurina) can aid in conserving a lesser known subspecies—-Humboldt martens (Martes caurina humboldtensis)– is unclear. To address the lack of information for martens in coastal Oregon, USA, we quantified vegetation characteristics at locations used by Humboldt martens and spotted owls in two regions (central and southern coast) and at two spatial scales (the site level summarizing extensive vegetation surveys and regionally using remotely sensed vegetation and estimated habitat models). We estimated amount of predicted habitat for both species in established reserves. If predicted overlap in established reserves was low, then we reported vegetation characteristics to inform potential locations for reserves or management opportunities. In the Central Coast, very little overlap existed in vegetation characteristics between Humboldt martens and spotted owls at either the site or regional level. Humboldt martens occurred in young forests composed of small diameter trees with few snags or downed logs. Humboldt martens were also found in areas with very dense vegetation when overstory canopy and shrub cover percentages were combined. In the South Coast, Humboldt martens occurred in forests with smaller diameter trees than spotted owl sites on average. Coastal Humboldt martens may use stands of predicted high quality spotted owl habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Nonetheless, our observations suggest that coastal Humboldt martens exist in areas that include a much higher diversity of conifer size classes as long as extensive dense shrub cover, predominantly in the form of high salal and evergreen huckleberry, are available. We suggest that managers consider how structural characteristics (e.g., downed logs, shrub cover, patch size), are associated with long-term species persistence rather than relying on reserves based on broad cover types. Describing vegetation may partially describe suitability, but available prey or predation risk ultimately influence likelihood of individual Humboldt marten use. Guidelines for diversifying vegetation management, and retaining or restoring appropriate habitat conditions at both the stand level and regionally, may increase management flexibility and identify forest conditions that support both spotted owls and Humboldt martens.
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