Washington Conservation Science Institute

Leavenworth, WA, United States

Washington Conservation Science Institute

Leavenworth, WA, United States
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Vanbianchi C.,University of British Columbia | Gaines W.L.,Washington Conservation Science Institute | Murphy M.A.,University of Wyoming | Pither J.,University of British Columbia | Hodges K.E.,University of British Columbia
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2017

Habitat loss and fragmentation result in landscapes where high quality habitat patches are surrounded by matrix habitats of low and variable quality. For mobile species to persist in such landscapes, individual animals often rely on the high quality habitats but also use matrix habitats for supplemental resources or while moving between higher quality patches. Determining what habitat features animals select when in these matrix areas is important, as retaining desirable features in lower quality habitats may enable species persistence. We examine a population of US federally threatened Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) in northcentral Washington, near the southwestern range limit, where lynx habitat is fragmented by topography, wildfires, and human impacts. We used Global Positioning System radio-collar data from 17 lynx in the North Cascade Mountains during 2007–2013 to explore lynx habitat use. We used Random Forest models to analyze core hunting, resting, and denning habitat, and the habitats lynx select while between patches of core habitat. While selecting core habitat, lynx used spruce (Picea engelmannii)-fir (Abies lasiocarpa), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), and mixed sub-boreal-Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests, and avoided dry forests and forest openings including new burns. When not in core habitat, lynx used a wider range of habitats, including new burns where fire skips and residual trees offered cover. Our results show clearly that Canada lynx tolerate a wider range of habitats where they occupy fragmented landscapes. Consequently, maintaining animals in fragmented landscapes requires that we identify and conserve not only the core habitats a particular species selects, but also the habitat features animals use while in less suitable environments. © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Gaines W.L.,Washington Conservation Science Institute | Lehmkuhl J.F.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Halupka K.,U.S. Department of Interior | Singleton P.H.,U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Forest Service - General Technical Report PNW-GTR | Year: 2015

The integration of disturbance ecology and spotted owl habitat objectives is a significant issue in the fire-prone forests in eastern Oregon and Washington. To progress in our scientific understanding, we presented a summary of spotted owl habitat use, including interactions with barred owls; reiterated the importance of establishing a landscape context for where and how much habitat to retain, and where and how restoration treatment should occur; and we summarized key standlevel spotted owl habitat objectives to consider in the design of treatments and to use as working hypotheses in adaptive management. This provides a consistent set of habitat objectives so that treatment effects on spotted owl habitat structure and prey species, fuels and fire behavior, and vegetation structure and composition can be compared across ecological provinces. The design of specific monitoring or management studies based on the implementation of these treatments follows in chapter 5. © 2015, USDA Forest Service. All rights reserved.


Krosby M.,University of Washington | Breckheimer I.,University of Washington | Singleton P.H.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Hall S.A.,SAH Ecologia LLC | And 4 more authors.
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2015

Context: The dual threats of habitat fragmentation and climate change have led to a proliferation of approaches for connectivity conservation planning. Corridor analyses have traditionally taken a focal species approach, but the landscape “naturalness” approach of modeling connectivity among areas of low human modification has gained popularity as a less analytically intensive alternative. Objectives: We compared focal species and naturalness-based corridor networks to ask whether they identify similar areas, whether a naturalness-based approach is in fact more analytically efficient, and whether agreement between the two approaches varies with focal species vagility. Methods: We compared focal-species and naturalness-based connectivity models at two nested spatial extents: greater Washington State, USA, and, within it, the Columbia Plateau ecoregion. We assessed complementarity between the two approaches by examining the spatial overlap of predicted corridors, and regressing organism traits against the amount of modeled corridor overlap. Results: A single naturalness-based corridor network represented connectivity for a large (>10) number of focal species as effectively as a group of between 3 and 4 randomly selected focal species. The naturalness-based approach showed only moderate spatial agreement with composite corridor networks for large numbers of focal species, and better agreed with corridor networks of large-bodied, far-dispersing species in the larger scale analysis. Conclusions: Naturalness-based corridor models may offer an efficient proxy for focal species models, but a multi-focal species approach may better represent the movement needs of diverse taxa. Consideration of trade-offs between the two approaches may enhance the effectiveness of their application to connectivity conservation planning. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Hessburg P.F.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Churchill D.J.,University of Washington | Larson A.J.,University of Montana | Haugo R.D.,The Nature Conservancy | And 15 more authors.
Landscape Ecology | Year: 2015

Context: More than a century of forest and fire management of Inland Pacific landscapes has transformed their successional and disturbance dynamics. Regional connectivity of many terrestrial and aquatic habitats is fragmented, flows of some ecological and physical processes have been altered in space and time, and the frequency, size and intensity of many disturbances that configure these habitats have been altered. Current efforts to address these impacts yield a small footprint in comparison to wildfires and insect outbreaks. Moreover, many current projects emphasize thinning and fuels reduction within individual forest stands, while overlooking large-scale habitat connectivity and disturbance flow issues. Methods: We provide a framework for landscape restoration, offering seven principles. We discuss their implication for management, and illustrate their application with examples. Results: Historical forests were spatially heterogeneous at multiple scales. Heterogeneity was the result of variability and interactions among native ecological patterns and processes, including successional and disturbance processes regulated by climatic and topographic drivers. Native flora and fauna were adapted to these conditions, which conferred a measure of resilience to variability in climate and recurrent contagious disturbances. Conclusions: To restore key characteristics of this resilience to current landscapes, planning and management are needed at ecoregion, local landscape, successional patch, and tree neighborhood scales. Restoration that works effectively across ownerships and allocations will require active thinking about landscapes as socio-ecological systems that provide services to people within the finite capacities of ecosystems. We focus attention on landscape-level prescriptions as foundational to restoration planning and execution. © 2015 The Author(s)


Gaines W.L.,Washington Conservation Science Institute | Lehmkuhl J.F.,U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Forest Service - General Technical Report PNW-GTR | Year: 2015

The controversy and scientific uncertainty regarding how to implement spotted owl recovery within the context of ecosystem restoration provides an opportunity to implement short- and long-term adaptive management to improve the scientific basis for decisionmaking. A representative network of monitoring study sites within the fire-prone provinces of the eastern Cascades would ensure (1) consistent application of scientific principles, (2) robust statistical design and analysis, (3) central management of data to ensure quality and security, and (4) rapid learning and dissemination of results. Adaptive management and monitoring to address the effects of restoration treatments on spotted owl habitat remain an important proposal in recovery actions for the northern spotted owl. However, limited progress has been made in initiating and implementing these important actions on a scale needed to address the social and ecological diversity that occurs across the range of the spotted owl in the eastern Cascades. We propose a network of management study sites, each with a similar set of treatment objectives, that can be used to further our scientific understanding of spotted owl recovery within the context of ecosystem restoration. Work across this network would be implemented through research-management collaborations and coordinated by the interagency Dry Cascades Work Group. Additionally, this group could assure that information generated from the network of management studies be used to adapt recovery and management plans as necessary. With spotted owl populations continuing to decline across much of their range, and projections for considerable increases in the amount of wildfire as a result of changing climates, time is of the essence. Our limited knowledge about how best to design treatments to restore the resiliency of landscapes while providing for spotted owl habitat could greatly hinder our ability to act unless we learn as we go. © 2015, USDA Forest Service. All rights reserved.

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