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Factors Associated with Extirpation of Sage-Grouse

Category: Wildlife Research and Management - Wildlife Research

Date Published: March 01, 2011

Number of Pages: 22

Author(s): Michael J. Wisdom, Cara W. Meinke, Steven T. Knick, and Michael A. Schroeder

Geographic ranges of Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and Gunnison Sage- Grouse (C. minimus) have contracted across large areas in response to habitat loss and detrimental land uses. However, quantitative analyses of the environmental factors most closely associated with range contraction have been lacking, results of which could be highly relevant to conservation planning. Consequently, we analyzed differences in 22 environmental variables between areas of former range (extirpated range), and areas still occupied by the two species (occupied range). Fifteen of the 22 variables, representing a broad spectrum of biotic, abiotic, and anthropogenic conditions, had mean values that were significantly different between extirpated and occupied ranges. Best discrimination between extirpated and occupied ranges, using discriminant function analysis (DFA), was provided by five of these variables: sagebrush area (Artemisia spp.); elevation; distance to transmission lines; distance to cellular towers; and land ownership. A DFA model containing these five variables correctly classified >80% of sage-grouse historical locations to extirpated and occupied ranges. We used this model to estimate the similarity between areas of occupied range with areas where extirpation has occurred. Areas currently occupied by sage-grouse, but with high similarity to extirpated range, may not support persistent populations. Model estimates showed that areas of highest similarity were concentrated in the smallest, disjunct portions of occupied range and along range peripheries. Large areas in the eastern portion of occupied range also had high similarity with extirpated range. By contrast, areas of lowest similarity with extirpated range were concentrated in the largest, most contiguous portions of occupied range that dominate Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and western Wyoming. Our results have direct relevance to conservation planning. We describe how results can be used to identify strongholds and spatial priorities for effective landscape management of sage-grouse.

Suggested Citation:
Wisdom, M. J., C. W. Meinke, S. T. Knick, and M. A. Schroeder. 2011. Factors associated with extirpation of Sage-Grouse. Pp. 451–472 in S. T. Knick and J. W. Connelly (editors). Greater Sage-Grouse: ecology and conservation of a landscape species and its habitats. Studies in Avian Biology (vol. 38), University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.