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Nest microclimates of Greater Sage-Grouse in a post-megafire landscape: does selection equate to success?

February 28, 2021

Temperature at fine spatial scales is an important driver of nest site selection for many avian species during the breeding season and can influence nest success. Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities have areas with high levels of vegetation heterogeneity and high thermal variation; however, fire removes vegetation that provides protection from predators and extreme environmental conditions. To examine the influence of microclimates on Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) nest site selection and nest success in a fire affected landscape, we measured black bulb temperature (Tbb) and vegetation attributes (e.g. visual obstruction) at 3 spatial scales (i.e. nest bowl, microsite, and landscape) in unburned and burned areas. Nest bowls exhibited greater buffering of Tbb than both nearby microsites and the broader landscape. Notably, nest bowls were warmer in cold temperatures, and cooler in hot temperatures, than nearby microsites and the broader landscape, regardless of burn stage. Nest survival was higher for nests in unburned areas compared to nests in burned areas (unburned NS = 0.43, 95% CI: 0.33 to 0.54; burned NS = 0.24, 95% CI: 0.10 to 0.46). Amount of bare ground was negatively associated with nest survival, but effects diminished as the amount of bare ground reached very low levels. Shrub height and visual obstruction were positively associated with nest survival during the entire study period whereas, minimum Tbb had a weaker effect. Our findings demonstrate that thermoregulatory selection by Greater Sage-Grouse at nest sites had marginal effects on their nest survival. However, given that increases in vegetation structure (e.g. shrub height) provides thermal refuge and increases nest survival, vegetation remnants or regeneration in a post-fire landscape could be critical to Greater Sage-Grouse nesting ecology.

Publication Year 2021
Title Nest microclimates of Greater Sage-Grouse in a post-megafire landscape: does selection equate to success?
DOI 10.1093/ornithapp/duaa068
Authors Christopher R. Anthony, Christian A. Hagen, Katie Dugger, R. Dwayne Elmore
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ornithological Applications
Index ID 70228583
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle