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Quantifying the combined effects of climate, fire, and treatments on the connectivity and fragmentation of wildlife populations across the Great Basin

Status: 
Start-up
Dates: 
September, 2016 to December, 2018

Background

Female greater sage-grouse observed at a high-elevation mountain big sagebrush site. Inyo National Forest, California. Photo by: Chris Balzotti, Stanford University, used with permission.
Female greater sage-grouse in a mountain big sagebrush ecosystem (photo by: Chris Balzotti, Stanford University, used with permission).
Over one million acres will receive treatments across the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GBLCC) to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat over the next decade. These treatments are intended to restore native sagebrush habitat by reducing encroachment of juniper, infestations of invasive weeds, and wildfire. Habitat restoration projects will be implemented in areas that have the potential to improve greater sage-grouse habitat through conifer reduction, prescribed fire, strategic placement of fuel breaks, and seeding using a full array of treatment activities including chemical, biological, and mechanical treatments. These treatments will alter the composition and structure of vegetation across the GBLCC, affecting habitat extent, quality and connectivity for a wide range of native species. It is critical to understand how these treatments will affect non-target species before treatments are implemented.

Project Goals and Objectives

We will investigate the effects of these treatments on the connectivity of both pinyon-juniper and sage brush obligate species that represent a broad range of life-history and vagility characteristics. We selected eight different species (pronghorn, mule deer, pygmy rabbit, Brewer’s sparrow, sage sparrow, pinyon-jay, gray flycatcher, and pinyon mouse) that were either of interest to local managers or were listed as species of conservation concern in the region.

The connectivity modeling we propose will provide general understanding that will contribute to the diversity of knowledge required to manage landscapes for the benefit of all native taxa. We will predict changes to habitat area, fragmentation, and corridor connectivity for species under different treatment and climate change scenarios using state-of-the-art spatial analysis and modeling approaches. Our products will provide practical, detailed and specific management recommendations at scales relevant to population viability for the eight focal species. The project will provide analysis for the entire GBLCC geographic area, which includes portions of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and California.

Geographic footprint of the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative.
Geographic footprint of the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

Approach

We will used landscape dynamic simulation modeling coupled with spatially explicit modeling of species distributions and population connectivity to predict changes in population distribution and connectivity under current and future climate and management regimes.

Deliverables

As part of this project, we plan to:

  • Produce a data set with metadata and website, containing simulation of fire, climate and management treatments on landscape composition and structure, on ScienceBase and Databasin to allow easy access to GBLCC partners and other land management agencies and researchers.

  • Produce a data set with metadata and website, containing prediction of habitat connectivity for target species under the four scenarios, on ScienceBase and Databasin to allow easy access to GBLCC partners and other land management agencies and researchers.

  • Prepare a final report summarizing our findings and evaluating the potential benefits and risks of proposed management treatments on the connectivity and fragmentation of the Great Basin landscape for multiple wildlife species.

  • Present a project poster at the annual meeting of the U.S. Chapter of the International Association of Landscape Ecologists.

  • Prepare a refereed General Technical Report focusing on the management recommendations and implications of our results.

  • Write 2-4 peer reviewed journal articles on our results and conclusions in journals such as Ecology, Ecological Applications, Landscape Ecology and Conservation Biology.

  • Complete a workshop for managers within the Great Basin to provide training on the use and interpretation of our model outputs.

  • Conduct a field demonstration to tour landscapes and discuss model predictions in context with managers.

  • Produce a two page summary “white paper” describing our results and their implications for distribution to managers and stakeholders in the GBLCC.

  • Deliver 3-4 presentations at national scientific and manager meetings.



Project Contact: 

Principal Investigators:
Collaborators:
John Wilson - Bureau of Land Management
Lee Turner - Nevada Department of Widlife

Research Staff:
Valerie Horncastle - Northern Arizona University
Kathy Zeller - University of Massachusetts

Funding Contributors:
Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative