Identifying landscapes for greater prairie chicken translocation using habitat models and GIS: a case study

  • Niemuth N
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Declines in the number and range of prairie grouse (Tympanuchus spp.) in North America have prompted numerous translocation efforts to establish additional populations, but overall success of translocations has been low. Because success of a translocation is ultimately determined by the quantity and quality of habitat at the translocation site, evaluating habitat prior to translocation should be a critical consideration. I used landscape characteristics surrounding 75 greater prairie chicken (T. cupido) leks and 75 unused points to develop a habitat model identifying suitability of landscapes for greater prairie chickens in Wisconsin. Presence of leks was positively associated with amount of grassland and wetland in the landscape and negatively associated with forest cover and distance from nearest known lek. The model correctly identified 94% of sample leks and unused points. I applied the model to digital landcover data of the entire state of Wisconsin to create a spatially explicit map predicting suitability of unoccupied landscapes for translocation of greater prairie chickens. Sites identified as suitable for greater prairie chickens agreed with results of other prairie chicken habitat models and landscapes identified as having high priority for conservation of grassland birds in Wisconsin. The most suitable landscapes had substantial public ownership but would likely require fine-grained management to meet all habitat requirements of greater prairie chickens. Landscape-level habitat models combined with accurate digital data provide an efficient means of objectively assessing habitat for prairie chicken translocation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • gis
  • landscape ecology
  • prairie chicken
  • scale
  • sharp-tailed grouse
  • spatially explicit habi-

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  • N D Niemuth

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