The University of Arizona

Evaluation of habitat structural measures in a shrubland community.

W.C. Harrell, S.D. Fuhlendorf


Accurate and efficient monitoring of habitat structure on rangelands is important for understanding wildlife responses to land management practices. Unfortunately, studies of wildlife responses to changes in habitat structure often use monitoring techniques that fail to measure variation in multiple structural dimensions. Our objectives were to evaluate relationships between measures of habitat structure in a shrubland community and to discuss the usefulness of several techniques in integrating multiple structural dimensions into a single index of habitat structure. We evaluated relationships between shrub cover, herbaceous cover, shrub patch number, average shrub patch size, average vegetation height, visual obstruction across multiple strata of a profile board, cone of vulnerability, and angle of obstruction using a principle component analysis. Many of these variables were redundant with each other. Average visual obstruction estimates, using a profile board, were associated with variability in vertical structure as indicated by its association with height. Coefficients of variation for cone of vulnerability and visual obstruction were dependent upon their means and of limited use in describing horizontal patchiness. In contrast, shrub patch number was not linearly correlated with any other single measure in our analysis, and may be useful in describing horizontal patchiness. Cone of vulnerability and angle of obstruction are recently developed techniques that provided useful, single indices of multidimensional habitat structure. Efficient monitoring of wildlife habitat structure should employ multiple, independent techniques that measure distinct dimensions of habitat structure or a single measure that integrates multiple dimensions.



stand structure;shrublands;visual obstruction;Artemisia filifolia;dimensions;angle of obstruction;cone of vulnerability;habitat structure;landscape ecology;habitats;understory;Quercus havardii;Oklahoma;plant density;Texas;canopy

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