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Canada lynx use of burned areas: Conservation implications of changing fire regimes

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ABSTRACT

A fundamental problem in ecology is forecasting how species will react to major disturbances. As the climate warms, large, frequent, and severe fires are restructuring forested landscapes at large spatial scales, with unknown impacts on imperilled predators. We use the United States federally Threatened Canada lynx as a case study to examine how predators navigate recent large burns, with particular focus on habitat features and the spatial configuration (e.g., distance to edge) that enabled lynx use of these transformed landscapes. We coupled GPS location data of lynx in Washington in an area with several recent large fires and a number of GIS layers of habitat data to develop models of lynx habitat selection in recent burns. Random Forest habitat models showed lynx‐selected islands of forest skipped by large fires, residual vegetation, and areas where some trees survived to use newly burned areas. Lynx used burned areas as early as 1 year postfire, which is much earlier than the 2–4 decades postfire previously thought for this predator. These findings are encouraging for predator persistence in the face of fires, but increasingly severe fires or management that reduces postfire residual trees or slow regeneration will likely jeopardize lynx and other predators. Fire management should change to ensure heterogeneity is retained within the footprint of large fires to enable viable predator populations as fire regimes worsen with climate change.

No MeSH data available.


Large fires in northcentral Washington, Pacific Northwest USA, over the last 30 years. The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone is the only area in the state that retains a population of lynx. During the 1980s and 1990s, fires >1000 ha were considered large, but fires in the 2000s have been substantially larger. The top edge of the map is the Canada–Washington border
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ece32824-fig-0002: Large fires in northcentral Washington, Pacific Northwest USA, over the last 30 years. The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone is the only area in the state that retains a population of lynx. During the 1980s and 1990s, fires >1000 ha were considered large, but fires in the 2000s have been substantially larger. The top edge of the map is the Canada–Washington border

Mentions: The North Cascades region has experienced a dramatic increase in wildfires over the last 30 years (National Interagency Fire Center 2016). In 1994, two fires of 1,554 ha and 3,686 ha were large relative to previous decades. Then, in 2003 and 2006, one fire burned 8,620 ha, and three fires burned >20,000 ha each (Figure 2). These fires have raised serious concerns about whether lynx populations will remain viable within the state; the state has uplisted lynx from Threatened to Endangered (Interagency Lynx Biology Team 2013; Lewis, 2016).


Canada lynx use of burned areas: Conservation implications of changing fire regimes
Large fires in northcentral Washington, Pacific Northwest USA, over the last 30 years. The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone is the only area in the state that retains a population of lynx. During the 1980s and 1990s, fires >1000 ha were considered large, but fires in the 2000s have been substantially larger. The top edge of the map is the Canada–Washington border
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5383493&req=5

ece32824-fig-0002: Large fires in northcentral Washington, Pacific Northwest USA, over the last 30 years. The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone is the only area in the state that retains a population of lynx. During the 1980s and 1990s, fires >1000 ha were considered large, but fires in the 2000s have been substantially larger. The top edge of the map is the Canada–Washington border
Mentions: The North Cascades region has experienced a dramatic increase in wildfires over the last 30 years (National Interagency Fire Center 2016). In 1994, two fires of 1,554 ha and 3,686 ha were large relative to previous decades. Then, in 2003 and 2006, one fire burned 8,620 ha, and three fires burned >20,000 ha each (Figure 2). These fires have raised serious concerns about whether lynx populations will remain viable within the state; the state has uplisted lynx from Threatened to Endangered (Interagency Lynx Biology Team 2013; Lewis, 2016).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

A fundamental problem in ecology is forecasting how species will react to major disturbances. As the climate warms, large, frequent, and severe fires are restructuring forested landscapes at large spatial scales, with unknown impacts on imperilled predators. We use the United States federally Threatened Canada lynx as a case study to examine how predators navigate recent large burns, with particular focus on habitat features and the spatial configuration (e.g., distance to edge) that enabled lynx use of these transformed landscapes. We coupled GPS location data of lynx in Washington in an area with several recent large fires and a number of GIS layers of habitat data to develop models of lynx habitat selection in recent burns. Random Forest habitat models showed lynx‐selected islands of forest skipped by large fires, residual vegetation, and areas where some trees survived to use newly burned areas. Lynx used burned areas as early as 1 year postfire, which is much earlier than the 2–4 decades postfire previously thought for this predator. These findings are encouraging for predator persistence in the face of fires, but increasingly severe fires or management that reduces postfire residual trees or slow regeneration will likely jeopardize lynx and other predators. Fire management should change to ensure heterogeneity is retained within the footprint of large fires to enable viable predator populations as fire regimes worsen with climate change.

No MeSH data available.