Data from: Habitat monitoring and projections for threatened Canada lynx: linking the Landsat archive with carnivore occurrence and prey density
Simons-Legaard, Erin M.; Harrison, Daniel J.; Legaard, Kasey R. (2016), Data from: Habitat monitoring and projections for threatened Canada lynx: linking the Landsat archive with carnivore occurrence and prey density, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.sm86q
Habitat degradation is the leading threat to US federally listed species, but monitoring changes in habitat extent, fragmentation or quality is not generally included in species recovery plans.
Consecutive satellite images of the same area through time are commonly used to assess landscape changes, and image data are increasingly used to generate predictor variables for species–habitat models. A time series of satellite images has, however, rarely been used in conjunction with a species–habitat model to map changes in habitat extent or to predict wildlife–habitat dynamics through time.
We used a time series of forest disturbance encompassing 16 530 km2 of forestland in Maine to map and quantify change in forest types that influence probability of occurrence (POC) of the threatened Canada lynx Lynx canadensis. Integration with a predictive occurrence model developed from landscape conditions c. 2004 allowed us to retrospectively (1973–2004) assess changes at 2- to 4-year intervals, update predictions (2004–2010) and project the spatial distribution and extent of lynx foraging habitat over the next decade.
Between 1975 and 1991, 40% of mature conifer forest in our study area was removed by stand-replacing harvests, coincident with the last regional outbreak of eastern spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana (Clem.). As those areas regenerated between 1991 and 2010, POC increased dramatically as broad-scale habitat conditions for lynx's primary prey, snowshoe hare Lepus americanus, improved. Projections suggest that continued forest regrowth will provide new habitat over the next decade, but fragmentation will increase, and by 2022 the habitat distribution will shift southwards into areas where climate change or interspecific competition may limit lynx population expansion.
Synthesis and applications. Conservation planning for vagile species that depend on ephemeral forest types, such as the Canada lynx in the north-eastern USA, requires habitat monitoring strategies that can adapt to changing landscape conditions. Although Maine's lynx population has increased since the 1990s, we recommend that continued monitoring of lynx habitat and population status is critical given habitat and climate uncertainty. We also recommend that habitat management efforts be targeted not only at areas currently occupied by lynx but also where habitat loss is expected to occur near-term from succession or in anticipation of the next budworm outbreak.