Effects of linear features on resource selection and movement rates of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)

Canadian Journal of Zoology, e-First Articles. Human-mediated disturbances can lead to novel environmental features that can affect native biota beyond simple habitat loss. In boreal forests of western Canada, linear features (LFs; e.g., pipelines, seismic lines, and roads) are known to alter behaviour, movements, and interactions among species. Understanding LF impacts on native species has therefore been a management priority. Here, we investigate how LFs affect the spatial behaviour of wood bison (Bison bison athabascae Rhoads, 1898), which are designated as “threatened” in Canada. Using data collected from the Ronald Lake population in northeastern Alberta, we assessed how LFs influenced habitat selection and movement of bison by testing support among three hypotheses explaining whether LFs (i) increased forage availability, (ii) enhanced movement efficiency, or (iii) increased predation risk. Results supported the movement efficiency hypothesis as bison were generally ambivalent toward LFs, showing weak selection or avoidance depending on land-cover type, but moved slightly faster when on them. These findings contrast with avoidance behaviou rs reported for sympatric woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou (Gmelin, 1788)), which are also “threatened.” Our results should inform critical habitat decisions for wood bison, but we caution that further research is needed to understand the effects of LFs on bison demography.
Source: Canadian Journal of Zoology - Category: Zoology Authors: Source Type: research

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