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Open AccessArticle

Influence of Forest Structure and Composition on Summer Habitat Use of Wildlife in an Upland Hardwood Forest

1
Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, 2800 Faucette Drive Campus Box 8008, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
2
Department of Forestry, Center for Ecology, 1205 Lincoln Drive—MC 4411, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
3
Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(9), 160; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11090160
Received: 26 July 2019 / Revised: 25 August 2019 / Accepted: 7 September 2019 / Published: 8 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Diversity)
Oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya spp.) forest types are widespread across the midwestern United States, but changes in forest disturbance regimes are resulting in little to no oak recruitment and a compositional shift to shade-tolerant, mesophytic species, such as American beech (Fagus grandifolia) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). We conducted camera trap surveys in a mature upland hardwood forest of southern Illinois, USA during May to August 2015–2016 to document mammal summer habitat use in relation to forest structure and composition to further understand how regional shifts in forests may affect mammal communities. With nearly 4000 camera days of effort, we modeled occupancy patterns for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus canadensis). Forest composition models outcompeted forest structure models for white-tailed deer, where we observed a statistically significant negative relationship between white-tailed deer habitat use and beech dominance. Further, we found a strong, positive association between deer and oak dominance. Model selection indicated little support for within-stand forest structure or composition characteristics influencing habitat use for raccoons. Eastern gray squirrel occurrence was best described by forest composition, revealing a positive relationship with beech–maple importance values. Our predictive models indicated that the impact of forest changes underway will have varying impacts on wildlife species. We can expect changes in habitat use patterns to be more pronounced with time barring revised forest management practices, and these changes are likely to be most influential at the landscape-scale. We conclude that a patchwork mosaic of forest conditions will likely best support a diverse and abundant mammal community across the region. View Full-Text
Keywords: wildlife-habitat relationships; forest ecology; white-tailed deer; raccoon; eastern gray squirrel; oak-hickory; Quercus-Carya; maple-beech; Acer–Fagus wildlife-habitat relationships; forest ecology; white-tailed deer; raccoon; eastern gray squirrel; oak-hickory; Quercus-Carya; maple-beech; Acer–Fagus
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Pease, B.S.; Holzmueller, E.J.; Nielsen, C.K. Influence of Forest Structure and Composition on Summer Habitat Use of Wildlife in an Upland Hardwood Forest. Diversity 2019, 11, 160.

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