Relationship between Carnivore Distribution and Landscape Features in the Northern Highlands Ecological Landscape of Wisconsin

By Haskell, Daniel E.; Webster, Christopher R. et al. | The American Midland Naturalist, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Relationship between Carnivore Distribution and Landscape Features in the Northern Highlands Ecological Landscape of Wisconsin


Haskell, Daniel E., Webster, Christopher R., Flaspohler, David J., Meyer, Michael W., The American Midland Naturalist


ABSTRACT.-Residential development has been associated with habitat fragmentation and loss and declining diversity of indigenous species, especially when development occurs in ecologically sensitive environments such as wetlands and/or riparian zones. In recent decades, the upper mid-west region of the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in residential development along lakeshores. In northern Wisconsin, recent studies have documented negative effects of such development on local flora and certain fauna (avian and amphibian communities) but less is known about how mammal communities, especially carnivores, respond to housing development. To quantify the influence of lakeshore development on these taxa, we conducted snow track surveys on 10 pairs of low- and highdevelopment lakes and deployed remote cameras at four lakes in Vilas County, Wisconsin, in 2008. Our results suggest that a higher diversity of carnivores (P = 0.006) were present on low-development lakes. Coyotes (Cants latrans) were detected most frequently (n = 34) especially on low-development lakes. Fishers (Martes pennanti), wolves (Canis lupus), bobcats (Lynx rufus), and northern river otters (Lontra canadensis) were exclusively detected on lowdevelopment lakes by snow track surveys. Raccoon (Procyon lotor) and red fox (Vulpus vulpus) detection was greater on higher-development lakes than low-development lakes. These results also were supported by 12 remote cameras on a subset of four lakes. We also investigated the influence of housing and road density in the surrounding landscape (500 m buffer) on carnivore community composition by means of a non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination. Significant associations were observed between community composition and landscape attributes associated with development. Our results suggest that residential development along lakeshores is having a negative impact on carnivore diversity in this region.

INTRODUCTION

Rural landscapes in the Midwestern United States have experienced dramatic changes in recent decades due to residential development (Radeloff et al, 2005). Residential development in rural landscapes causes fragmentation and loss of wildlife habitat (Theobald et al, 1997) thus poses a serious threat to biodiversity (Wilcove et al, 1998; Czech et al, 2000). Humans are inclined to construct primary or secondary homes in and around natural areas because they provide amenity values such as recreation and scenery (Schnaiberg et al, 2002). Freshwater ecosystems have attracted people and development for centuries (Naiman, 1996; Riera et al, 2001). In northern Wisconsin, residential development has increased over 200% along lakeshores in recent decades [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), 1996; Radeloff et al, 2001; Gonzales-Abraham et al, 2007].

In 1968, the State of Wisconsin attempted to protect lakeshore habitat by implementing ordinances that mandated vegetation cutting standards in a buffer zone along lakeshores. The Wisconsin Shoreland Management Program (WDNR Chapter NR 115) states that vegetation within a buffer zone must be left intact for 10.7 m (35 ft) inland from the ordinary high water mark and no more than 9.1 m (30 ft) for every 30.5 m (100 ft) of shoreline can be cleared of vegetation. This program recommended the remaining shoreline be left in a naturally vegetated state. However, many lakeshore owners routinely ignore or are unaware of diese ordinances which often results in the removal of vegetation structure along shorelines (Christensen et al, 1996; Elias and Meyer, 2003). Wildlife can be affected direcdy or indirectly by these actions (Ford and Flaspohler, 2010).

Recent studies comparing low- and high-development lakes in Vilas County, Wisconsin, documented declines in die flora and fauna on the more developed lakeshores. For example, species composition of breeding birds differed significan dy (Lindsay et al, 2002), abundance of green frogs was substantially lower (Woodford and Meyer, 2003), and vegetation structure and composition in riparian and littoral zones were dramatically different (Elias and Meyer, 2003) along low- and high-residential development lakeshores. …

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Relationship between Carnivore Distribution and Landscape Features in the Northern Highlands Ecological Landscape of Wisconsin
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