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Tuesday, January 26 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Zooming in on Landscape Simplification: Fine-Scale Changes To Vegetation Configuration Influences Suitability of Agricultural Landscapes For Northern Bobwhite Colinus Virginianus

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AUTHORS: Randall T. Knapik*, Michigan State University Mark J. Wiley, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Coree A. Brooks, U.S. Forest Service Robert J. Gates, The Ohio State University

ABSTRACT: Increases in the extent and intensity of agricultural production at the turn of the 20th century resulted in landscape changes that undoubtedly benefited early-successional wildlife species such as northern bobwhite Colinus virginianus (hereafter bobwhite), but continued simplification of agricultural landscapes to the present day has reduced available early-successional habitat for wildlife. We documented land use across an agricultural region of southwestern Ohio from 2009 to 2014 while simultaneously monitoring covey density and winter habitat use. We used a geographic information system (GIS) to spatially model probability of use for bobwhite based on changes in focal habitat types during the non-breeding season (1 October – 31 March). Radio-locations were recorded ≥ 3 times weekly for 105 coveys across 4 non-breeding seasons in 2009 – 2011 (57 coveys; n = 3,751) and 2012 – 2014 (48 coveys; n = 2,237). Covey density varied simultaneously with percentage of early-successional woody habitat (e.g. fencerows, ditches, and brushy old fields). Loss of early-successional woody features resulted in decreased probability of use by bobwhite coveys; however, probability of use increased in areas where important, although overabundant, focal habitat features (i.e. large herbaceous fields enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program) were removed. Management of woodlot edges (i.e. edge-feathering) created early-successional habitat that raised the predicted probability of use when near other focal habitat types (e.g. row crop and early-successional herbaceous fields), but did not increase the probability of use when not close to these other cover types. This research has documented the effects of fine-scale changes in vegetation configuration (e.g. fencerow removal or woodlot edge-feathering) on suitability of agricultural landscapes for bobwhite while concurrently developing a distance-based probability of use framework for focusing habitat management.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 2:20pm - 2:40pm EST