Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Terry A. Messmer

Abstract

The greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse) has been a species of conservation concern since the early 20th century due to range-wide population declines. To contribute to knowledge of the ecology of sage-grouse populations that inhabit the Box Elder Sage Grouse Management Area (SGMA) in northwestern Utah and quantify their responses to landscape scale habitat manipulations, I monitored vital rates and habitat selection of 45 female sage-grouse from 2014 to 2015. Using telemetry locations of female sage-grouse with known nest and brood fates, I created Generalized Linear Mixed Models to estimate the influence of proximity to pinyon (Pinus spp.) and juniper (Juniperus spp.; conifer) encroachment, and removal projects may have on sagegrouse reproductive fitness in the Box Elder SGMA. The best fit model suggested that for every 1 km a nest was located away from a conifer removal area, probability of nest success was reduced by 9.1% (β = -0.096, P < 0.05). Similarly, for every 1 unit increase in the log-odds of selection for distance to treatment, probability of brood success declined by 52.6% (P = 0.09). The probability of brood success declined by 77.2% (P < 0.05) as selection for conifer canopy cover increased.

To evaluate sage-grouse habitat use, I used fecal pellet surveys to estimate relative pellet density in conifer encroachment, removal, and undisturbed sagebrush areas. Sage-grouse pellet densities were estimated at 4.6 pellets/ha (95% CI = 1.2, 10.9), 8.6 pellets/ha (95% CI = 3.8, 15.2), and 50.6 pellets/ha (95% CI = 36.8, 69.6), in conifer encroachment, removal, and undisturbed sagebrush areas respectively. Density estimates did not statistically differ between conifer encroachment and removal areas.

To determine if vegetation micro-site characteristics at sage-grouse use sites influenced nest or brood fate, I recorded standard vegetation measurements for all radio-marked sage-grouse nests and a stratified random sample of brood-use sites from 2014- 2015 and compared them to random sites. Micro-site vegetation characteristics measured did not differ for successful and unsuccessful nests. Many characteristics differed between micro-sites used by successful broods and those used by unsuccessful broods. Sites used by successful broods also differed from random sites.

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Biology Commons

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