Mesopredator Community Dynamics along a Gradient of Landscape Disturbance in Riparian Corridors of Central Pennsylvania, USA

Posted on Nov 30, 2020


by Andrew T. TOWNSEND, Joseph A. BISHOP, Thomas L. SERFASS and Robert P. BROOKS
CWBM 9 (2): 88-106.

Correspondence: Riparia, Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, 16802, USA.



A human-induced global decline of apex predators resulted in the “release” of smaller mesopredators. These mesopredators exhibit different relationships with landscape disturbance than do their apex cousins. This study sampled predator use of riparian corridor disturbance gradients to examine the relationships between mesopredator occurrence and occupancy with measures of landscape disturbance. Multiple measures of landscape composition and configuration were used in this analysis. Mesopredator occurrence was sampled with camera traps, along with trace evidence surveys when evaluating occupancy. This sampling strategy was replicated across 4 seasons in 2 rural valleys with forest-to-agriculture gradients in the Ridge and Valley Province of central Pennsylvania. We found that mesopredator occurrences were positively associated with measures of increasing landscape fragmentation and human use, but that different measures were more predictive for different species. Cumulatively, the mesopredator guild seemed to prefer sites with more landscape edges and narrow riparian corridors. Northern raccoons (Procyon lotor) and North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana) were associated with sites that had more human development. Canid occupancy appeared limited to nonforested portions of the landscape, at least along these riparian corridors. No other individual species or taxonomic subgroups demonstrated significant associations with any of our measured variables. This study demonstrated the complexity of the mesopredator community and its positive association with landscape disturbance. It also suggested the significance of riparian corridors to carnivore species.

Key Words: Camera Trapping, Landscape Fragmentation, Mammalian Carnivores, Mesopredators, Occupancy Modeling, Riparian Corridors.

5 - Townsend et al.


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