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Usefulness of biophysical proxy data for modelling habitat of an endangered forest species: The white-backed woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos

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Efficient conservation planning in managed forest landscapes requires knowledge about the location of functional habitat for specialised species. We explored the importance of different variables to predict habitat suitability for the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos Bechstein), a proposed umbrella species in deciduous forest. Specifically, we tested whether biophysical proxy variables indicating management intensity and the occurrence of natural processes constituted a useful complement to traditional remotely sensed data on tree species composition and forest stand age for modelling the woodpecker's habitat. Presence–absence of the woodpecker during the study period (1986–2006) in southwestern Sweden was explained by the area of edge habitats (forest bordering water or farmland) and wetland forest, and location relative to the historical marine limit. The number of years with occurrence of the woodpecker in a territory was explained by the area of forest bordering water and wetland forest. Among traditional forest variables, the area of deciduous forest had a strong positive effect on both woodpecker presence–absence and the number of years with occurrence. The results support the hypothesis that edge habitats and forest types subject to natural processes favouring deciduous trees and dead wood creation are valuable to the woodpecker and should be prioritised in conservation planning.
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Keywords: Conservation planning; Dendrocopos leucotos; deciduous forest; edge habitats; habitat suitability, land-use history, remote sensing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Stockholm, Sweden 2: Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, Faculty of Forest Sciences,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Umeå, Sweden 3: School for Forest Management, Faculty of Forest Sciences,Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Skinnskatteberg, Sweden

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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