Oh deer, what do we have here? Monitoring stand and landscape-level changes in wildlife habitat use in northern New York
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sandstone pavement barren
Research Subject Categories::NATURAL SCIENCES::Biology::Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology::Terrestrial ecology
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AbstractForest composition and structure is a primary determinant of wildlife community patterns. However, disturbances such as selective harvesting, wildfires, and maple-sugaring operations, along with seasonal changes in habitat, may also influence wildlife species richness and abundance at the landscape-level. The Altona Flat Rock, a sandstone pavement barrens, contains Pinus rigida (Pitch Pine)- and Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine)-dominated forest types nested within the largely northern hardwood dominated landscape of upstate New York. Sections of these forest types have undergone recent disturbance (i.e., wildfire in the Jack Pine, maple sugaring and harvest in the northern hardwoods), changing structure and/or composition in those areas. The objective of this study was to evaluate wildlife habitat use over time and space across these adjacent, but very different, forests. Since spring 2018, we have used game cameras to continuously monitor wildlife in the hardwood-dominated forests surrounding the Flat Rock (n = 12). Concurrently, we have also been monitoring wildlife use in the Pitch Pine (n = 4) and Jack Pine barrens (n = 8). The most ubiquitous herbivore across all 3 sites was Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), while Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote) and Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare) were most abundant in the Jack Pine forest type. Interestingly, Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Sciurus vulgaris (Red Squirrel) were found almost exclusively in either the hardwood or Jack Pine forests, respectively, suggesting differences in dietary needs/preferences. Species richness varied dramatically across forest types, with northern hardwood, Jack Pine, and Pitch Pine richness values of 20, 31, and 2, respectively. Disturbance in the Jack Pine stand initially decreased richness, however, over the duration of the study there was little difference between the disturbed (26 species) and undisturbed (22 species) Jack Pine stands. We have observed slightly lower species richness in the mature hardwood forest (13 species) versus the young hardwood forest (19 species). Further analysis will determine temporal (seasonal and diel) wildlife diversity patterns. This study will provide wildlife and forest managers insights into the influence of forest type, and impacts of disturbance and management practices, on wildlife habitat.
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