Microhabitat Conditions in Wyoming’s Sage-Grouse Core Areas: Effects on Nest Site Selection and Success
Public Library of Science
The purpose of our study was to identify microhabitat characteristics of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) nest site selection and survival to determine the quality of sage-grouse habitat in 5 regions of central and southwest Wyoming associated with Wyoming’s Core Area Policy. Wyoming’s Core Area Policy was enacted in 2008 to reduce human disturbance near the greatest densities of sage-grouse. Our analyses aimed to assess sage-grouse nest selection and success at multiple micro-spatial scales. We obtained microhabitat data from 928 sage-grouse nest locations and 819 random microhabitat locations from 2008–2014. Nest success was estimated from 924 nests with survival data. Sage-grouse selected nests with greater sagebrush cover and height, visual obstruction, and number of small gaps between shrubs (gap size ≥0.5 m and <1.0 m), while selecting for less bare ground and rock. With the exception of more small gaps between shrubs, we did not find any differences in availability of these microhabitat characteristics between locations within and outside of Core Areas. In addition, we found little supporting evidence that sage-grouse were selecting different nest sites in Core Areas relative to areas outside of Core. The Kaplan-Meier nest success estimate for a 27-day incubation period was 42.0% (95% CI: 38.4–45.9%). Risk of nest failure was negatively associated with greater rock and more medium-sized gaps between shrubs (gap size ≥2.0 m and <3.0 m). Within our study areas, Wyoming’s Core Areas did not have differing microhabitat quality compared to outside of Core Areas. The close proximity of our locations within and outside of Core Areas likely explained our lack of finding differences in microhabitat quality among locations within these landscapes. However, the Core Area Policy is most likely to conserve high quality habitat at larger spatial scales, which over decades may have cascading effects on microhabitat quality available between areas within and outside of Core Areas.
Dinkins J.B., K. T. Smith, J. L. Beck, C. P. Kirol, A. C. Pratt, and M. R. Conover. 2016. Microhabitat conditions in Wyoming’s Sage-grouse Core Areas: effects on nest site selection and success. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150798.
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