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Temporal patch occupancy dynamics of the Siberian flying squirrel in a boreal forest landscape

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Ability to predict species distribution in a landscape is of crucial importance for natural resource management and species conservation. Therefore, the understanding of species habitat requirements and spatio-temporal dynamics in occurrence is needed. We examined patch occupancy patterns of the Siberian flying squirrel Pteromys volans in northern Finland across a seven year study period. Forest patches dominated by mature spruce (Picea abies) in a study area (375 km2) were surveyed to monitor the presence or absence of the flying squirrel. The patch occupancy pattern was dynamic: about half of the habitat patches were occupied at least once during the study period and more patches were colonised than were abandoned. Patches that were continuously occupied (i.e. occupied during all sample periods) were typically of high quality (based on habitat and landscape characteristics), continuously unoccupied patches were usually of low quality, and intermediate quality patches were occupied intermittently. The variables explaining patch occupancy were similar each year, and a statistical model based on data from the year 2000 also predicted occupancy in 2004 with similar accuracy. However, data from a single survey were inadequate for identifying patches used intermittently by flying squirrels. Despite inconsistent occupancy, these patches may be important for the local persistence of flying squirrels. The dynamic occupancy pattern may thus affect estimates of suitable habitat area and identification of functional patch networks for landscape planning. These results emphasise the need for follow-up studies to better understand population patterns and processes in time.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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