Habitat Modeling for Forest-Dependent Species

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Lidar is a remote sensing tool that can be used to model both the vertical and horizontal distribution of vegetation, allowing researchers to quantify habitat complexity for species residing in forest canopies. USGS researchers and collaborators used lidar data to estimate occupancy probability for the threatened marbled murrelet in Oregon Coast Range forests. Their goal was to provide an improved estimate of available nesting habitat by developing occupancy maps based on refined habitat measurements derived from the lidar data. A model was developed that included five lidar-derived variables describing canopy structure that reflect age-related stand characteristics consistent with murrelet nesting ecology (for example, maximum height of the tallest trees). The model resulted in a more accurate representation of murrelet nesting habitat than a model with variables estimated using traditional methods. The refined measurements of forest structure selected by nesting murrelets are useful for estimating availability of nesting habitat in the forests studied.

Hagar, J.C., Eskelson, B.N., Haggerty, P., Nelson, S.K., Vesely, D.G., 2014, Modeling marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) habitat using LiDAR-derived canopy data. DOI- 10.1002/wsb.407: Wildlife Society Bulletin, p. online.

Author Name
Joan Hagar
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