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Article

Predicting Occurrence, Abundance, and Fruiting of a Cultural Keystone Species to Inform Landscape Values and Priority Sites for Habitat Enhancements

1
Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, Canada
2
Forest Stewardship and Trade Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Edmonton, AB T5K 2M4, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Forests 2020, 11(7), 783; https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070783
Received: 6 June 2020 / Revised: 17 July 2020 / Accepted: 17 July 2020 / Published: 21 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest Biodiversity Conservation with Remote Sensing Techniques)
Environmental niche modeling is an increasingly common tool in conservation and management of non-timber species. In particular, models of species’ habitats have been aided by new advances in remote sensing and it is now possible to relate forest structure variables to understory species at a relatively high resolution over large spatial scales. Here, we model landscape responses for a culturally-valued keystone shrub, velvet-leaf blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides Michaux), in northeast Alberta, Canada, to better understand the environmental factors promoting or limiting its occurrence, abundance, and fruit production, and to guide regional planning. Occurrence and abundance were measured at 845 and 335 sites, respectively, with both strongly related to land cover type and topo-edaphic factors. However, their influence varied widely, reflecting differences in the processes affecting occurrence and abundance. We then used airborne laser scanning (ALS) to characterize horizontal forest canopy cover for the study area, and related this and other geospatial variables to patterns in fruit production where we demonstrated a five-fold increase in fruit production from closed to open forest stands. We then simulated forest canopy thinning across the study area to identify places where gains in fruit production would be greatest following natural disturbance or directed management (e.g., thinning, prescribed burning). Finally, we suggest this approach could be used to identify sites for habitat enhancements to offset direct (land use change) or indirect (access) losses of resources in areas impacted with resource extraction activities, or simply to increase a culturally-valued resource through management. View Full-Text
Keywords: velvet-leaf blueberry; Vaccinium myrtilloides; fruit production; boreal forest; LiDAR; ALS; canopy; environmental niche models velvet-leaf blueberry; Vaccinium myrtilloides; fruit production; boreal forest; LiDAR; ALS; canopy; environmental niche models
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MDPI and ACS Style

Nielsen, S.E.; Dennett, J.M.; Bater, C.W. Predicting Occurrence, Abundance, and Fruiting of a Cultural Keystone Species to Inform Landscape Values and Priority Sites for Habitat Enhancements. Forests 2020, 11, 783. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070783

AMA Style

Nielsen SE, Dennett JM, Bater CW. Predicting Occurrence, Abundance, and Fruiting of a Cultural Keystone Species to Inform Landscape Values and Priority Sites for Habitat Enhancements. Forests. 2020; 11(7):783. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070783

Chicago/Turabian Style

Nielsen, Scott E., Jacqueline M. Dennett, and Christopher W. Bater 2020. "Predicting Occurrence, Abundance, and Fruiting of a Cultural Keystone Species to Inform Landscape Values and Priority Sites for Habitat Enhancements" Forests 11, no. 7: 783. https://doi.org/10.3390/f11070783

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