UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Post-fire movements of Pacific marten (Martes caurina) depend on the severity of landscape change Volkmann, Logan; Hodges, Karen


Background Wildfires and forestry activities such as post-fire salvage logging are altering North American forests on a massive scale. Habitat change and fragmentation on forested landscapes may threaten forest specialists, such as Pacific marten (Martes caurina), that require closed, connected, and highly structured habitats. Although marten use burned landscapes, it is unclear how these animals respond to differing burn severities, or how well they tolerate additional landscape change from salvage logging. Methods We used snow tracking and GPS collars to examine marten movements in three large burns in north-central Washington, USA (burned in 2006) and central British Columbia, Canada (burned in 2010 and 2017). We also assessed marten habitat use in relation to areas salvage-logged in the 2010 burn. We evaluated marten path characteristics in relation to post-fire habitat quality, including shifts in behaviour when crossing severely-disturbed habitats. Using GPS locations, we investigated marten home range characteristics and habitat selection in relation to forest cover, burn severity, and salvage logging. Results Marten in the 2006 burn shifted from random to directed movement in areas burned at high severity; in BC, they chose highly straight paths when crossing salvage-blocks and meadows. Collared marten structured their home ranges around forest cover and burn severity, avoiding sparsely-covered habitats and selecting areas burned at low severity. Marten selected areas farther from roads in both Washington and BC, selected areas closer to water in the 2006 burn, and strongly avoided salvage-logged areas of the 2010 burn. Marten home ranges overlapped extensively, including two males tracked concurrently in the 2010 burn. Conclusions Areas burned at low severity provide critical habitat for marten post-fire. Encouragingly, our results indicate that both male and female marten can maintain home ranges in large burns and use a wide range of post-fire conditions. However, salvage-logged areas are not suitable for marten and may represent significant barriers to foraging and dispersal.

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