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Patch Scale Nest-Site Selection by Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus)

Author(s): Michael P. Silvergieter | David B. Lank

Journal: Avian Conservation and Ecology
ISSN 1712-6568

Volume: 6;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 6;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Brachyramphus marmoratus | habitat selection | Marbled Murrelet | nesting habitat | Resource Selection Functions

The Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a threatened alcid that nests almost exclusively in old-growth forests along the Pacific coast of North America. Nesting habitat has significant economic importance. Murrelet nests are extremely difficult and costly to find, which adds uncertainty to management and conservation planning. Models based on air photo interpretation of forest cover maps or assessments by low-level helicopter flights are currently used to rank presumed Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat quality in British Columbia. These rankings are assumed to correlate with nest usage and murrelet breeding productivity. Our goal was to find the models that best predict Marbled Murrelet nesting habitat in the ground-accessible portion of the two regions studied. We generated Resource Selection Functions (RSF) using logistic regression models of ground-based forest stand variables gathered at plots around 64 nests, located using radio-telemetry, versus 82 random habitat plots. The RSF scores are proportional to the probability of nests occurring in a forest patch. The best models differed somewhat between the two regions, but include both ground variables at the patch scale (0.2-2.0 ha), such as platform tree density, height and trunk diameter of canopy trees and canopy complexity, and landscape scale variables such as elevation, aspect, and slope. Collecting ground-based habitat selection data would not be cost-effective for widespread use in forestry management; air photo interpretation and low-level aerial surveys are much more efficient methods for ranking habitat suitability on a landscape scale. This study provides one method for ground-truthing the remote methods, an essential step made possible using the numerical RSF scores generated herein.

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