Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project 1037005

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Tsi Del Del Furbearer DNA pilot project: 2002/2003 summary report

Author(s): Davis, Larry R.
Imprint: B.C.: Tsi Del Del Enterprises, 2003
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), Habitat (Ecology), British Columbia, DNA
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program - Innovative


In 2002, a DNA based furbearer study was developed and implemented for the Tsi del del Operating Area. This project has been developed to provide information for the inventory and management of furbearers within the area. The project is one of two that have been initiated to address this information gap. The other study is a track transect inventory for all furbearing species in the Redbrush area. This summary report details the field results for the DNA study. The information derived from the DNA study will be used to examine landscape level requirements such as minimum patch size and the effects of spatial distribution on furbearing species. Since detection methods, such as track transects, have low power to detect all but gross changes in animal abundance (Strayer, 1999), this project will also assess our ability to inventory furbearing species using DNA methods. Obtaining landscape level information on the habitat requirements of furbearing species is critical in maintaining populations through time and space. The current mountain pine beetle epidemic will result in widespread changes in the availability of mature and old lodgepole pine habitat. As habitats become fragmented, survival and reproduction may be lowered for some species as resources become diluted. American marten have been shown to require core areas of 150ha or more of residual forest to be successful (Chapin et al. 1998; Hargis et al 1999). A study in spruce - pine stands of Utah found that landscapes with >25% non-forested habitat had no marten captures and that natural nonforested habitat should be included in the calculation when assessing fragmentation (Hargis et al 1999). Based on this study, Hargis et al (1999) reported that the landscape pattern in which a forest stand occurs is just as important as the structural aspects of the stand. Other territorial species such as fisher (Martes pennanti) are also likely to be affected as harvesting proceeds (Steventon, 2002). Furthermore, furbearing species in dry ecosystems, such as the SBPS, may require larger residual patches than those in more productive ecosystems. Determining the amount of habitat needed and spatial distribution of furbearer habitats requires collecting population and habitat data at the landscape level. One method of examining landscape level land use patterns is using DNA mark recapture. This method has proved successful in estimating the abundance of American marten (Martes americana) (Mowat and Paetkau, 2001) and can be applied in a cost efficient manner over large areas where there is good access. Information on population size, population trends, and habitat characteristics (at the meso to landscape level) can be derived using this technique. This information can then be linked with the stand level data derived using track transects to give a more complete picture of furbearer habitat requirements. Since this area has moderate numbers of marten and the provincially blue listed fisher, we have conducted a DNA-based study on both species to augment the information collected using track transects. This data will also be used as a pilot project to explore the feasibility of using this technique to monitor furbearer population change as the mountain pine beetle epidemic proceeds in the West Chilcotin.
Larry Davis.

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Updated August 02, 2006 

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