Modeling patch occupancy: Relative performance of ecologically scaled landscape indices

  • Rizkalla C
  • Moore J
  • Swihart R
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In fragmented landscapes, the likelihood that a species occupies a particular habitat patch is thought to be a function of both patch area and patch isolation. Ecologically scaled landscape indices (ESLIs) combine a species' ecological profile, i.e., area requirements and dispersal ability, with indices of patch area and connectivity. Since their introduction, ESLIs for area have been modified to incorporate patch quality. ESLIs for connectivity have been modified to incorporate niche breadth, which may influence a species' ease in crossing the non-habitat matrix between patches. We evaluated the ability of 4 ESLIs, the original and modified indices of area and connectivity, to explain patterns in patch occupancy of 5 forest rodents. Occupancy of eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsconicus), fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), and eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) was modeled at 471 sites in 35 landscapes sampled from the upper Wabash River basin in Indiana. Models containing ESLIs received support for gray squirrels, red squirrels, and chipmunks. Modified ESLIs were important in models for red squirrels. However, none of the models demonstrated high predictive ability. Incorporating habitat quality and using surrogate measures of dispersal can have important effects on model results. Additionally, different responses of species to area, isolation, and habitat quality suggest that generalizing patterns of metapopulation dynamics was not justified, even across closely related species.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Connectivity
  • Forest rodent
  • Metapopulation
  • Niche breadth
  • Patch area

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  • Carol E. Rizkalla

  • Jeffrey E. Moore

  • Robert K. Swihart

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