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Local habitat patch pattern of the Siberian flying squirrel in a managed boreal forest landscape

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We examined how the structure of a boreal forest landscape is related to the occurrence of the Siberian flying squirrel Pteromys volans in northern Finland. The flying squirrel inhabits mature spruce-dominated (Picea abies) mixed forests and is categorised as vulnerable species due to habitat loss and change. We classified a landscape of 374.5 km2 into potential habitat patches, potential dispersal areas, and areas incapable of being inhabited using national forest inventory data, and surveyed all 136 potential habitat patches for the presence of the species. Different landscape variables were defined, and also connections by the shortest distances to neighbouring habitat patches along both straight lines and least-cost distances based on specific movement costs were measured. Occupied patches were larger in size, contained more deciduous trees for food and nesting cavities, and were in closer proximity to the nearest occupied patches. Occupied patches were mainly located below 300 m a.s.l. The occurrence of flying squirrels was correctly predicted for 88% of the habitat patches using landscape variables. This modelling result proved to be rather general. In addition, the configuration of occupied patches was mainly clustered across the landscape, and distant occupied patches seemed to be linked to other patches via forested connections. We suggest that maintaining a clustered arrangement of good quality habitat patches and regenerating new potential habitat as well as dispersal areas between the habitat patches seem to be appropriate goals for long-term forest management planning to sustain populations of the flying squirrel in the landscape.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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