Food and habitats requirements of the Scops Owl Otus scops in Switzerland revealed by very high-resolution multi-scale models


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Food and habitats requirements of the Scops Owl Otus scops in Switzerland revealed by very high-resolution multi-scale models
Theux C., Klein N., Garibaldi E., Jacot A., Eichhorn S., Guisan A., Pradervand J.-N.
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In Press
In Europe, agricultural practices have progressively evolved towards high productivity leading either to the intensification of productive and accessible areas or the abandonment of less profitable sites. Both processes have led to the degradation of semi-natural habitats such as extensive grasslands, threatening species like the Scops Owl Otus scops that rely on extensively managed agricultural landscapes. In this work, we aimed to assess the habitat preferences of the Scops Owl using habitat suitability models combined with a multi-scale approach. We generated a set of multi-scale predictors, considering both biotic and abiotic variables, built on two newly developed vegetation management and orthopteran abundance models. To select the variables to incorporate in a ‘best multi-scale model’, we chose the best spatial scale for each variable using univariate models and by calculating their relative importance through multi-model inference. Next, we built ensembles of small models (ESMs) at 10 different scales from 50 m to 1000 m, and an additional model with each variable at its best scale (‘best multi-scale model’). The latter performed better than most of the other ESMs and allowed the creation of a high-resolution habitat suitability map for the species. Scops Owls showed a preference for dry sites with extensive and well-structured habitats with 30-40% bush cover, and relied strongly on semi-extensive grasslands covering at least 30% of surface within 300 m of the nest and high orthopteran availability near the centre of their territories (50 m radius), revealing a need for good foraging grounds near the nest. At a larger spatial scale within a radius of 1000 m, the habitat suitability of Scops Owls was negatively related to forest cover. The resulting ESM predictions provide valuable tools for conservation planning, highlighting sites in need of particular conservation efforts together with offering estimates of the percentage of habitat types and necessary prey abundance that could be used as targets in future management plans to ensure the persistence of the population.
Ensemble of small models, endangered species, habitat suitability models, conservation, orthopterans, biotic factors
Create date
04/08/2021 14:51
Last modification date
05/08/2021 6:37
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