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Can orchards help connect mediterranean ecosystems? Animal movement data alter conservation priorities

  • Author(s): Nogeire, TM
  • Davis, FW
  • Crooks, KR
  • McRae, BH
  • Lyren, LM
  • Boydston, EE
  • et al.
Abstract

© 2015 American Midland Naturalist. As natural habitats become fragmented by human activities, animals must increasingly move through human-dominated systems, particularly agricultural landscapes. Mapping areas important for animal movement has therefore become a key part of conservation planning. Models of landscape connectivity are often parameterized using expert opinion and seldom distinguish between the risks and barriers presented by different crop types. Recent research, however, suggests different crop types, such as row crops and orchards, differ in the degree to which they facilitate or impede species movements. Like many mammalian carnivores, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are sensitive to fragmentation and loss of connectivity between habitat patches. We investigated how distinguishing between different agricultural land covers might change conclusions about the relative conservation importance of different land uses in a Mediterranean ecosystem. Bobcats moved relatively quickly in row crops but relatively slowly in orchards, at rates similar to those in natural habitats of woodlands and scrub. We found that parameterizing a connectivity model using empirical data on bobcat movements in agricultural lands and other land covers, instead of parameterizing the model using habitat suitability indices based on expert opinion, altered locations of predicted animal movement routes. These results emphasize that differentiating between types of agriculture can alter conservation planning outcomes.

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