2017-08-16 | Wolves recolonizng western Poland follow habitat suitability model

Although habitat suitability models (HSM) have been widely proposed as conservation and management tools, especially for rare and endangered taxa, their predictive power for recovering populations has rarely been tested. In the new study by Dr. Sabina Nowak from the Association for Nature "Wolf" and her team, compared the predictions of the HSM for wolves in western Poland with the present distribution of the species after 15 years of spontaneous recolonization. Results of the analysis just appared in Diversity and Distributions. Wolves were recorded in 259 cells (19.8% of the study area). The pairs and packs settled in areas predicted by the HSM to have good and very good habitat, in cells characterized by high forest cover and low densities of roads. Wolf groups that reproduced were found in the best-quality habitats characterized by denser forest cover and markedly lower shares of anthropogenic structures. Dispersing individuals were mostly recorded in unsuitable and suboptimal habitats, and they avoided both the poorest and the best habitats. In the initial phase of wolf recovery, cells selected
by wolves for settling down and those used by dispersing wolves did not differ in their habitat parameters. However, in the later phase, as WPL became more saturated with wolf packs, dispersing individuals were recorded in less suitable habitats. The HSM for Polish wolves predicted with high accuracy the areas later occupied by wolf groups in the western part of the country. A similar approach may also be useful to predict the future distribution of wolves in the lowlands of central and western Europe where environmental conditions are comparable and recolonizing wolves originate from the same source population.

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