Authors

Lino S, Sillero N, Torres J, Santos X, Álvares F

Abstract

 

Wildfires are a main driver of habitat disturbance, influencing landscape structure and resource availability. Large carnivores are expected to experience strong effects as recently burned areas influence prey availability and suitable conditions for refuge and breeding. However, there are substantial knowledge gaps regarding the interplay between fire and landscape attributes affecting large carnivore occurrence. In this work, we aim to assess the effects of fire in relation to human density, elevation, and land cover in determining wolf (Canis lupus) occurrence at two spatial scales. A regional scale considering temporal shifts in wolf distribution at country level (Portugal) and a local scale considering breeding-site selection and reuse from 11 packs. We hypothesized that fire disturbance in a human-dominated landscape is a significant factor influencing wolf occurrence. Our results showed that wolves persisted in areas with higher altitudes, lower forest cover and intensive fire regimes. Breeding-sites were located at higher altitudes, in land covers less prone to human activity and disturbance, but subjected to a higher burnt extent, although with no significant association between breeding-site displacement and fire occurrence. The multiple-scale approach demonstrated wolves’ remarkable resilience to fire, persisting and breeding in a human-dominated landscape under intensive fire regimes. However, burnt landscapes may induce higher exposure to human disturbance and persecution due to limited refuge conditions. This study provides valuable insights on the role of fire in the persistence and habitat selection of a large carnivore, an issue with relevant management implications in fire-prone  landscapes, predicted to become a common scenario worldwide.

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Journal: Landscape and Urban Planning

DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2018.12.003