Silvicolous on a small scale: Possibilities and limitations of habitat suitability models for small, elusive mammals in conservation management and landscape planning

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Abstract

Species distribution and endangerment can be assessed by habitat-suitability modelling. This study addresses methodical aspects of habitat suitability modelling and includes an application example in actual species conservation and landscape planning. Models using species presence-absence data are preferable to presence-only models. In contrast to species presence data, absences are rarely recorded. Therefore, many studies generate pseudo-absence data for modelling. However, in this study model quality was higher with null samples collected in the field. Next to species data the choice of landscape data is crucial for suitability modelling. Landscape data with high resolution and ecological relevance for the study species improve model reliability and quality for small elusive mammals like Muscardinus avellanarius. For large scale assessment of species distribution, models with low-detailed data are sufficient. For regional site-specific conservation issues like a conflict-free site for new wind turbines, high-detailed regional models are needed. Even though the overlap with optimally suitable habitat for M. avellanarius was low, the installation of wind plants can pose a threat due to habitat loss and fragmentation. To conclude, modellers should clearly state the purpose of their models and choose the according level of detail for species and environmental data.

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Becker, N. I., & Encarnaҫão, J. A. (2015). Silvicolous on a small scale: Possibilities and limitations of habitat suitability models for small, elusive mammals in conservation management and landscape planning. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120562

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