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Greater sage-grouse vital rates after wildfire

September 23, 2018

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) have been subject to long-term and continuing declines in population and habitat since European settlement of western North America. Increased wildfire activity constitutes a primary threat to the species in western portions of their range, with documented declines in wildfire-affected populations. Following a 187,000-ha wildfire in southeastern Oregon and northern Nevada, USA, we used global positioning system (GPS) telemetry to monitor nest initiation, nest survival, nesting habitat, and adult survival of female sage-grouse during 2013 and 2014. We used known-fate models in Program MARK to estimate daily nest survival and monthly adult survival in relation to temporal patterns, physiological characteristics of females, and habitat and land-cover characteristics. We assessed habitat characteristics using geographic information system (GIS)-derived measures of post-fire habitat condition and land cover. Nest initiation rate following the fire was comparable to that observed in unaltered habitat. We observed nesting rates of 90% and 100% during 2013 and 2014, respectively, and renesting rates of 23% and 57% during the same years. Daily nest survival was consistently low in comparison to rates observed in concurrent studies in the region, for first nests during both years, and for second nests during 2013, but survival markedly increased for second nests during 2014. Sage-grouse generally did not leave the fire perimeter to nest, with 64% and 73% of nests located in the fire boundary during 2013 and 2014, respectively. Approximately 27% of nests were located in burned habitat during 2013, and 20% of nests in 2014 were located in burned habitat. Adult survival varied by month, and although patterns of monthly survival were similar between years, monthly survival rates were significantly reduced from the beginning of the study through the end of the first post-fire growing season. Our results indicate that sage-grouse continue to use fire-affected habitat in the years immediately following wildfire and sage-grouse experienced lower nest survival and adult female survival than other populations during the same period.

Publication Year 2019
Title Greater sage-grouse vital rates after wildfire
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21573
Authors Lee J. Foster, Catherine M. Dugger, C.A. Hagen, David A. Budeau
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Wildlife Management
Index ID 70227895
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle