Where to Combat Shrub Encroachment in Alpine Timberline Ecosystems: Combining Remotely-Sensed Vegetation Information with Species Habitat Modelling

Braunisch, Veronika; Patthey, Patrick; Arlettaz, Raphaël (2016). Where to Combat Shrub Encroachment in Alpine Timberline Ecosystems: Combining Remotely-Sensed Vegetation Information with Species Habitat Modelling. PLoS ONE, 11(10), e0164318. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0164318

[img]
Preview
Text
Braunisch_PLoSONE2016.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution (CC-BY).

Download (2MB) | Preview

In many cultural landscapes, the abandonment of traditional grazing leads to encroachment of pastures by woody plants, which reduces habitat heterogeneity and impacts biodiversity typical of semi-open habitats. We developed a framework of mutually interacting spatial models to locate areas where shrub encroachment in Alpine treeline ecosystems deteriorates vulnerable species' habitat, using black grouse Tetrao tetrix (L.) in the Swiss Alps as a study model. Combining field observations and remote-sensing information we 1) identified and located the six predominant treeline vegetation types; 2) modelled current black grouse breeding habitat as a function thereof so as to derive optimal habitat profiles; 3) simulated from these profiles the theoretical spatial extension of breeding habitat when assuming optimal vegetation conditions throughout; and used the discrepancy between (2) and (3) to 4) locate major aggregations of homogeneous shrub vegetation in otherwise suitable breeding habitat as priority sites for habitat restoration. All six vegetation types (alpine pasture, coniferous forest, Alnus viridis (Chaix), Rhododendron-dominated, Juniperus-dominated and mixed heathland) were predicted with high accuracy (AUC >0.9). Breeding black grouse preferred a heterogeneous mosaic of vegetation types, with none exceeding 50% cover. While 15% of the timberline belt currently offered suitable breeding habitat, twice that fraction (29%) would potentially be suitable when assuming optimal shrub and ground vegetation conditions throughout the study area. Yet, only 10% of this difference was attributed to habitat deterioration by shrub-encroachment of dense heathland (all types 5.2%) and Alnus viridis (4.8%). The presented method provides both a general, large-scale assessment of areas covered by dense shrub vegetation as well as specific target values and priority areas for habitat restoration related to a selected target organism. This facilitates optimizing the spatial allocation of management resources in geographic regions where shrub encroachment represents a major biodiversity conservation issue.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Braunisch, Veronika and Arlettaz, Raphaël

Subjects:

300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Language:

English

Submitter:

Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

02 Feb 2017 15:01

Last Modified:

05 Feb 2017 02:11

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0164318

PubMed ID:

27727325

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.93704

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/93704

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback