Estimating response distances of lesser prairie-chickens to anthropogenic features during long-distance movements

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Spatially distributed populations often rely on large-scale processes for long-term population stability. These processes are driven by individuals moving across the landscape through long-distance dispersal movements. However, as landscapes are continually altered by anthropogenic development, increased fragmentation and avoidance behavior can affect landscape permeability and limit dispersal. Lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) are a species of concern that have lost significant portions (>90%) of their historic distribution in the Southern Great Plains of the United States and are currently being impacted by continued anthropogenic development. Using GPS telemetry locations of 346 lesser prairie-chickens across their entire geographic distribution, we identified 184 different long-distance movements that drive population connectivity. We used empirical cumulative distribution functions to create a selection–avoidance–neutral curve and estimated the spatial scale of response to anthropogenic features (i.e., towers and windmills, large transmission and smaller distribution powerlines, oil wells, roads, and fences) during these movements. In addition, we tested for behavioral differences between movement types (e.g., exploratory loops vs. long-distance movements between home ranges) and for regional differences in response among study areas. We found that during long-distance movements, lesser prairie-chickens generally avoided all anthropogenic feature types we tested despite some variation in the reported response distance among study areas. However, they avoided the tallest features (i.e., towers and windmills and transmission powerlines) at much greater distances in comparison with the shorter features in our analysis. Our results show that long-distance movements are likely affected by responses to functional landscape fragmentation through increased development of anthropogenic features in important connectivity zones. As our estimated response distances during long-distance movements varied in comparison with previously reported response distances during other behavioral states (e.g., breeding or nesting), using long-distance or dispersal specific movement data may be more appropriate when asking questions related to connectivity across the landscape.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimating response distances of lesser prairie-chickens to anthropogenic features during long-distance movements
Series title Ecosphere
DOI 10.1002/ecs2.3202
Volume 11
Issue 9
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description e03202, 15 p.
Country United States
State Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
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