Landscape connectivity for bobcat (Lynx rufus) and lynx (Lynx canadensis) in the Northeastern United States

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Abstract

Landscape connectivity is integral to the persistence of metapopulations of wide ranging carnivores and other terrestrial species. The objectives of this research were to investigate the landscape characteristics essential to use of areas by lynx and bobcats in northern New England, map a habitat availability model for each species, and explore connectivity across areas of the region likely to experience future development pressure. A Mahalanobis distance analysis was conducted on location data collected between 2005 and 2010 from 16 bobcats in western Vermont and 31 lynx in northern Maine to determine which variables were most consistent across all locations for each species using three scales based on average 1) local (15 minute) movement, 2) linear distance between daily locations, and 3) female home range size. The bobcat model providing the widest separation between used locations and random study area locations suggests that they cue into landscape features such as edge, availability of cover, and development density at different scales. The lynx model with the widest separation between random and used locations contained five variables including natural habitat, cover, and elevation—all at different scales. Shrub scrub habitat—where lynx’s preferred prey is most abundant—was represented at the daily distance moved scale. Cross validation indicated that outliers had little effect on models for either species. A habitat suitability value was calculated for each 30 m2 pixel across Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine for each species and used to map connectivity between conserved lands within selected areas across the region. Projections of future landscape change illustrated potential impacts of anthropogenic development on areas lynx and bobcat may use, and indicated where connectivity for bobcats and lynx may be lost. These projections provided a guide for conservation of landscape permeability for lynx, bobcat, and species relying on similar habitats in the region.

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Farrell, L. E., Levy, D. M., Donovan, T., Mickey, R., Howard, A., Vashon, J., … Kilpatrick, C. W. (2018). Landscape connectivity for bobcat (Lynx rufus) and lynx (Lynx canadensis) in the Northeastern United States. PLoS ONE, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194243

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