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Endangered Species Research

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ESR 14:49-59 (2011)  -  DOI:

Estimating 30-year change in coastal old‑growth habitat for a forest-nesting seabird in British Columbia, Canada

Jed A. Long1,*, Stephanie L. Hazlitt2, Trisalyn A. Nelson1, Karen Laberee

1Spatial Pattern Analysis & Research Lab, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, PO Box 3060, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3R4, Canada
2Ecosystems Branch, British Columbia Ministry of Environment, PO Box 9338, Station Provincial Government, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9M1, Canada

ABSTRACT: The marbled murrelet Brachyramphus marmoratus is an old-growth dependent species that nests in North American coastal forests. Canadian populations and occurrence data are limited; however concern over loss of nesting habitat in coastal British Columbia led to an assessment of ‘threatened’ by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and subsequent listing under the Canadian Species at Risk Act. Information on the availability and patterns of change in nesting habitat is essential for making land-use decisions and for monitoring the conservation status of this wide-ranging seabird. We estimated potential marbled murrelet nesting habitat for the coast of British Columbia at 2 points in time, 1978 and 2008, and quantified habitat loss and modelled habitat recruitment over this 30 yr time period, a key time frame for the assessment of the conservation status of this high-profile species. We implemented 3 predictive habitat suitability models for the province of British Columbia, ranging from exclusive to more inclusive models. Based on the various habitat model scenarios, including corrections using aspatial harvest records, we estimated that 20 to 24% of potential marbled murrelet nesting habitat was lost to forest harvest and fire from 1978 to 2008. If modelled habitat recruitment is considered, then net change in potential nesting habitat is 20 to 22% loss. Our estimates of potential murrelet habitat and subsequent habitat loss and change are influenced by numerous sources of uncertainty, such as actual suitability of forest stands for breeding murrelets and known deficiencies in the forest harvest spatial datasets. However, the results presented here provide the first range of province-wide habitat change possibilities and are consistent with previous regional analyses of potential marbled murrelet habitat loss in British Columbia.

KEY WORDS: Marbled murrelet · Brachyramphus marmoratus · Nesting habitat · Spatial modelling · Habitat loss · British Columbia · Geographic information systems · GIS

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Cite this article as: Long JA, Hazlitt SL, Nelson TA, Laberee K (2011) Estimating 30-year change in coastal old‑growth habitat for a forest-nesting seabird in British Columbia, Canada. Endang Species Res 14:49-59.

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