A multiscale landscape approach to predicting bird and moth rarity hotspots, in a threatened pitch pine-scrub oak community

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Conservation Biology


In the northeastern United States, pitch pine ( Pinus rigida Mill.)–scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia Wang.) communities are increasingly threatened by development and fire suppression, and prioritization of these habitats for conservation is of critical importance. As a basis for local conservation planning in a pitch pine–scrub oak community in southeastern Massachusetts, we developed logistic-regression models based on multiscale landscape and patch variables to predict hotspots of rare and declining bird and moth species. We compared predicted moth distributions with observed species-occurrence records to validate the models. We then quantified the amount of overlap between hotspots to assess the utility of rare birds and moths as indicator taxa. Species representation in hotspots and the current level of hotspot protection were also assessed. Predictive models included variables at all measured scales and resulted in average correct classification rates (optimal cut point) of 85.6% and 89.2% for bird and moth models, respectively. The majority of moth occurrence records were within 100 m of predicted habitat. Only 13% of all bird hotspots and 10% of all moth hotspots overlapped, and only a few small patches in and around Myles Standish State Forest were predicted to be hotspots for both taxa. There was no correlation between the bird and moth species-richness maps across all levels of richness (r =−0.03, p = 0.62). Species representation in hotspots was high, but most hotspots had limited or no protection. Given the lack of correspondence between bird and moth hotspots, our results suggest that use of species-richness indicators for conservation planning may be ineffective at local scales. Based on these results, we suggest that local-level conservation planning in pitch pine–scrub oak communities be based on multitaxa, multiscale approaches.









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