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Encounters with Pinyon-Juniper influence riskier movements in Greater Sage-Grouse across the Great Basin

September 25, 2016

Fine-scale spatiotemporal studies can better identify relationships between individual survival and habitat fragmentation so that mechanistic interpretations can be made at the population level. Recent advances in Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and statistical models capable of deconstructing high-frequency location data have facilitated interpretation of animal movement within a behaviorally mechanistic framework. Habitat fragmentation due to singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla; hereafter pinyon) and Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma; hereafter juniper) encroachment into sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities is a commonly implicated perturbation that can adversely influence greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter sage-grouse) demographic rates. Using an extensive GPS data set (233 birds and 282,954 locations) across 12 study sites within the Great Basin, we conducted a behavioral change point analysis and subsequently constructed Brownian bridge movement models from each behaviorally homogenous section. We found a positive relationship between modeled movement rate and probability of encountering pinyon-juniper with significant variation among age classes. The probability of encountering pinyon-juniper among adults was two and three times greater than that of yearlings and juveniles, respectively. However, the movement rate in response to the probability of encountering pinyon-juniper trees was 1.5 times greater for juveniles. We then assessed the risk of mortality associated with an interaction between movement rate and the probability of encountering pinyon-juniper using shared frailty models. During pinyon-juniper encounters, on average, juvenile, yearling, and adult birds experienced a 10.4%, 0.2%, and 0.3% reduction in annual survival probabilities. Populations that used pinyon-juniper habitats with a frequency ≥ 3.8 times the overall mean experienced decreases in annual survival probabilities of 71.1%, 0.9%, and 0.9%. This analytical framework identifies a likely behavioral mechanism behind how pinyon-juniper encroachment decreases habitat suitability for sage-grouse, whereby encountering pinyon-juniper stimulates faster yet riskier movements that may make sage-grouse more vulnerable to visually acute predators.

Publication Year 2016
Title Encounters with Pinyon-Juniper influence riskier movements in Greater Sage-Grouse across the Great Basin
DOI 10.1016/j.rama.2016.07.004
Authors Brian G. Prochazka, Peter S. Coates, Mark A. Ricca, Michael L. Casazza, K. Benjamin Gustafson, Josh M. Hull
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Rangeland Ecology and Management
Index ID 70176627
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center