The influence of land use and land cover on survival and habitat selection of pronghorn in the Texas Panhandle
Ellison, Caroline N
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Land use and land cover (LULC) reflects how an area is being utilized from natural habitat and anthropogenic perspectives. As such, LULC can influence the ecology of wildlife. In the Texas Panhandle pronghorn (Antilocapra Americana) are a conspicuous member of the fauna that could be impacted by such landscape phenomena. In this study I investigate the influence of LULC on the survival and habitat selection of pronghorn in this region. To investigate the influence of LULC on survival, I obtained survival estimates for 6 different populations of pronghorn through linear regression of age structure data derived from cementum annuli of hunter harvested animals. I evaluated the importance of land use/land cover type and fragmentation statistics using a forward stepwise multilinear regression. I found that survival for pronghorn in the Texas Panhandle was 0.6146 (r2 = 0.9678). The forward multilinear regression selected total available area (t < 0.0001, p = 0.005), mean patch size (t = 0.0001, p = 0.007), and mean patch edge of mixed rangeland (t < 0.0001, p = 0.0406) as having a positive influence on pronghorn survival, and total area of herbaceous rangeland (t = -0.0662, p = 0.0253) as having a negative influence on survival. To investigate the influence of LULC on habitat selection, I used pronghorn sightings obtained from aerial surveys to compare available LULC area with LULC area used by pronghorn using Compositional Analysis. Pronghorn did exhibit habitat selection within the area surveyed (λ = 0.2593, P < 0.0001). Comparison of habitat rankings indicated that use differed from availability for all LULC Types, with shrub and brush rangeland being preferred over mixed rangeland, which was preferred over herbaceous rangeland, which was preferred over cropland/pasture. I concluded that LULC did have an influence on both survival and habitat selection of pronghorn, and that landscape mosaics that include shrub and brush rangeland are particularly important for pronghorn in the Texas Panhandle.