Identifying and prioritizing greater sage-grouse nesting and brood-rearing habitat for conservation in human-modified landscapes. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Balancing animal conservation and human use of the landscape is an ongoing scientific and practical challenge throughout the world. We investigated reproductive success in female greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) relative to seasonal patterns of resource selection, with the larger goal of developing a spatially-explicit framework for managing human activity and sage-grouse conservation at the landscape level. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We integrated field-observation, Global Positioning Systems telemetry, and statistical modeling to quantify the spatial pattern of occurrence and risk during nesting and brood-rearing. We linked occurrence and risk models to provide spatially-explicit indices of habitat-performance relationships. As part of the analysis, we offer novel biological information on resource selection during egg-laying, incubation, and night. The spatial pattern of occurrence during all reproductive phases was driven largely by selection or avoidance of terrain features and vegetation, with little variation explained by anthropogenic features. Specifically, sage-grouse consistently avoided rough terrain, selected for moderate shrub cover at the patch level (within 90 m(2)), and selected for mesic habitat in mid and late brood-rearing phases. In contrast, risk of nest and brood failure was structured by proximity to anthropogenic features including natural gas wells and human-created mesic areas, as well as vegetation features such as shrub cover. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Risk in this and perhaps other human-modified landscapes is a top-down (i.e., human-mediated) process that would most effectively be minimized by developing a better understanding of specific mechanisms (e.g., predator subsidization) driving observed patterns, and using habitat-performance indices such as those developed herein for spatially-explicit guidance of conservation intervention. Working under the hypothesis that industrial activity structures risk by enhancing predator abundance or effectiveness, we offer specific recommendations for maintaining high-performance habitat and reducing low-performance habitat, particularly relative to the nesting phase, by managing key high-risk anthropogenic features such as industrial infrastructure and water developments.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Dzialak, M. R., Olson, C. V., Harju, S. M., Webb, S. L., Mudd, J. P., Winstead, J. B., & Hayden-Wing, L. D.

citation count

  • 66

complete list of authors

  • Dzialak, Matthew R||Olson, Chad V||Harju, Seth M||Webb, Stephen L||Mudd, James P||Winstead, Jeffrey B||Hayden-Wing, LD

editor list (cited editors)

  • Fenton, B.

publication date

  • January 2011