Habitat suitability models and carrying capacity estimations for rock ptarmigans in a protected area of the Italian Alps

Nelli, L. (2015) Habitat suitability models and carrying capacity estimations for rock ptarmigans in a protected area of the Italian Alps. Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia, 85(1), pp. 23-30. (doi:10.4081/rio.2015.155)

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Rock ptarmigan populations in the Alps are suffering an overall decline, and management actions are needed to ensure their conservation. Yet wildlife management and conservation actions are often the consequences of political decisions taken by subjects that lack the scientific knowledge about the relationships between the environment and species ecology. Habitat suitability models are tools that translate these complex relationships into mathematical models and spatially explicit maps of potential presence and abundance of species that are easier to understand by people not experienced with the study of biological processes. In this study, I modelled the species-habitat relationships at two levels, by estimating the potential distribution and potential density of the species in a protected area of the Western Italian Alps. In particular, I took the results of a previous study carried out in the same area to estimate the probability of male occurrence by comparing the habitat structure in presence plots and random plots, respectively, by logistic regression analyses. Then, I applied the logistic regression equation to the same variables measured in hexagonal cells of a grid superimposed over the entire study area, and I obtained the map of the potential distribution of the species. Finally, I developed multiple regression analyses of male density estimated by distance sampling vs habitat variables, and I applied the results to the areas of potential distribution to forecast the potential density and therefore the carrying capacity of the study area. I obtained a potential distribution of 38.2 km2, with a potential average density of 5.1 males/km2. The latter was positively affected by the percentage cover of grassland and rocky grassland in the plots. The integrated approach that I used by combining models of occurrence and density allowed me to confirm and improve the results of previous works on rock ptarmigan predicted occurrence, to identify areas of conservation importance within the protected area and to give useful tools for spatially explicit management to the Natural Park administrators.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Nelli, Dr Luca
Authors: Nelli, L.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Journal Name:Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia
ISSN (Online):2385-0833
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 Luca Nelli
First Published:First published in Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia 85(1): 23-30
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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