Crucial nesting habitat for gunnison sage-grouse: A spatially explicit hierarchical approach

Authors

  • Cameron L. Aldridge,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, NREL, Colorado State University, in cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey, 2150 Centre Avenue, Building C, Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118, USA
    • Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, NREL, Colorado State University, in cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey, 2150 Centre Avenue, Building C, Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118, USA.
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  • D. Joanne Saher,

    1. NREL, Colorado State University, in cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey, 2150 Centre Avenue, Building C, Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118, USA
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  • Theresa M. Childers,

    1. National Park Service, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation, 102 Elk Creek, Gunnison, CO 81230, USA
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  • Kenneth E. Stahlnecker,

    1. National Park Service, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Curecanti National Recreation, 102 Elk Creek, Gunnison, CO 81230, USA
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  • Zachary H. Bowen

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, 2150 Centre Avenue, Building C, Fort Collins, CO 80526-8118, USA
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  • Associate Editor: Peter Coates

Abstract

Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) is a species of special concern and is currently considered a candidate species under Endangered Species Act. Careful management is therefore required to ensure that suitable habitat is maintained, particularly because much of the species' current distribution is faced with exurban development pressures. We assessed hierarchical nest site selection patterns of Gunnison sage-grouse inhabiting the western portion of the Gunnison Basin, Colorado, USA, at multiple spatial scales, using logistic regression-based resource selection functions. Models were selected using Akaike Information Criterion corrected for small sample sizes (AICc) and predictive surfaces were generated using model averaged relative probabilities. Landscape-scale factors that had the most influence on nest site selection included the proportion of sagebrush cover >5%, mean productivity, and density of 2 wheel-drive roads. The landscape-scale predictive surface captured 97% of known Gunnison sage-grouse nests within the top 5 of 10 prediction bins, implicating 57% of the basin as crucial nesting habitat. Crucial habitat identified by the landscape model was used to define the extent for patch-scale modeling efforts. Patch-scale variables that had the greatest influence on nest site selection were the proportion of big sagebrush cover >10%, distance to residential development, distance to high volume paved roads, and mean productivity. This model accurately predicted independent nest locations. The unique hierarchical structure of our models more accurately captures the nested nature of habitat selection, and allowed for increased discrimination within larger landscapes of suitable habitat. We extrapolated the landscape-scale model to the entire Gunnison Basin because of conservation concerns for this species. We believe this predictive surface is a valuable tool which can be incorporated into land use and conservation planning as well the assessment of future land-use scenarios. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.

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