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Title: Niche overlap of competing carnivores across climatic gradients and the conservation implications of climate change at geographic range margins

Author: Zielinski, William J.; Tucker, Jody M.; Rennie, Kerry M.;

Date: 2017

Source: Biological Conservation

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: There is considerable interest in factors controlling “warm-edge” limits – the lower elevation and latitudinal edges of a species' range. Understanding whether conservation measures can mitigate anticipated change in climate requires consideration of future climate as well as species interactions. We explored niche relations of martens and fishers at their southern range margins to understand their spatial and temporal dynamics, and how they may be affected by climate change. We used large-scale non-invasive surveys and home range data from radio-marked individuals to explore the spatial dynamics of each species. Marten and fisher were allopatric in the northern/wetter regions but sympatric at intermediate latitudes with lower precipitation. In the driest/southernmost region only fishers occurred. Martens were not detected when annual precipitation was < 900 mm and rare where minimum temperatures exceeded 4 °C. Fishers were absent where spring snow was > 650 mm. Classification trees, accounting for multivariate interactions, supported these results. Where sympatric, ~ 70% of a marten's home range overlapped with at least one fisher but martens tended to avoid this area. In sympatry, marten expanded their niche into areas with reduced snowpack, warmer temperatures and uncharacteristic lower elevation habitats. Future climate scenarios predict conditions that favor fishers, but our data suggest martens may be capable of shifting their niche somewhat to warmer and less snowy habitats. The conservation of interacting species at their warm range limits will require land managers be aware of interspecific tolerance, how each may respond uniquely to future climates, and how potential climate refugia can be integrated with existing habitat.

Keywords: California, Climate, Fisher, Geographic range, Marten, Martes caurina, Niche, Pekania pennant, Sierra Nevada

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Zielinski, William J.; Tucker, Jody M.; Rennie, Kerry M. 2017. Niche overlap of competing carnivores across climatic gradients and the conservation implications of climate change at geographic range margins. Biological Conservation. 209: 533-545. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.03.016.

 


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