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LiDAR as a Tool to Characterize Wildlife Habitat: California Spotted Owl Nesting Habitat as an Example

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We show the use of an emerging technology, airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR), to assess forest wildlife habitat by showing how it can improve the characterization of California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) nesting habitat. Large residual trees are important elements for many wildlife species and often, apparently, facilitate selection of habitat by spotted owls. However, we currently lack the ability to identify such trees over large spatial scales. We acquired multiple-return, high-resolution LiDAR data for a 107.1-km2 area in the central Sierra Nevada, California. We surveyed for spotted owls within this area during 2007‐2009 and located four nest trees. We then used the LiDAR data to measure the number, density, and pattern of residual trees (≥90-cm dbh) and to estimate canopy cover within 200 m of four nest trees. Nest trees were surrounded by large numbers of residual trees and high canopy cover. We believe that LiDAR would greatly benefit forest managers and scientists in the assessment of wildlife‐habitat relationships and conservation of important wildlife species.
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Keywords: California spotted owl; LiDAR; Sierra Nevada; Strix occidentalis occidentalis; canopy cover; nesting habitat; residual trees

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.675 (Rank 20/64 in forestry)

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    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

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