Multi‐scale effects of habitat structure and landscape context on a vertebrate with limited dispersal ability (the brown‐throated sloth, Bradypus variegatus)
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© 2018 The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation As human population, food consumption, and demand for forest products continue to rise over the next century, the pressures of land-use change on biodiversity are projected to intensify. In tropical regions, countryside habitats that retain abundant tree cover and structurally complex canopies may complement protected areas by providing suitable habitats and landscape connectivity for a significant portion of the native biota. Species with low dispersal capabilities are among the most at risk of extinction as a consequence of land-use change. We assessed how the spatial distribution of the brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus), a model species for a vertebrate with limited dispersal ability, is shaped by differences in habitat structure and landscape patterns of countryside habitats in north-central Costa Rica using a multi-scale framework. We quantified the influence of local habitat characteristics and landscape context on sloth occurrence using mixed-effects logistic regression models. We recorded 27 sloths within countryside habitats and found that both local and landscape factors significantly influenced their spatial distribution. Locally, sloths favored structurally complex habitats, with greater canopy cover and variation in tree height and basal area. At the landscape scale, sloths demonstrated a preference for habitats with high proportions of forest and nearby large tracts of forest. Although mixed-use areas and tree plantations are not substitutes for protected forests, our results suggest they provide important supplemental habitats for sloths. To promote the conservation and long-term viability of sloth populations in the tropical countryside, we recommend that land managers retain structurally complex vegetation and large patches of native habitat.
author list (cited authors)
Neam, K. D., & Lacher, T. E.