Vegetation structure quantified by light detection and ranging (LiDAR) can improve understanding of wildlife occupancy and species-richness patterns. However, there is often a time lag between the collection of LiDAR data and wildlife data. We investigated whether a time lag between the LiDAR acquisition and field-data acquisition affected mapped wildlife distributions ranging from an individual species distribution to total avian species richness in a conifer forest. We collected bird and LiDAR data in 2009 across a 20,000 ha forest in northern Idaho. Using the 2009 LiDAR data, we modelled the probability of occurrence for the brown creeper (Certhia americana). Using the same 2009 LiDAR data, we additionally modelled total avian species richness and richness of three different bird nesting guilds (ground/understory, mid/upper canopy and cavity). We mapped brown creeper occupancy probability and species richness using the 2009 models, and then compared these maps with maps based on the same models applied to a 2003-LiDAR dataset. A prior study identified areas harvested between 2003 and 2009. There was on average a 5% absolute decrease in mapped probabilities of brown creeper occurrence in non-harvest areas between 2003 and 2009. Species richness changed by less than one species in all cases within non-harvest areas between the 2003 and 2009 maps. Although these comparisons were statistically significant at the p < 0.0001 level, it is likely that the high number of map cells (~480,000) influenced this result. Similar patterns between our 2003 and 2009 maps in non-harvest areas for this suite of avian responses suggests that a 6-year difference between field-data collection and LiDAR-data collection has a minimal effect on mapped avian patterns in an undisturbed coniferous forest. However, because this is one case study in one ecosystem, additional work examining the effect of temporal lags between LiDAR and field-data collection on mapping wildlife distributions is warranted in additional ecosystems.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Boaz Crees for assistance in the field, and the USGS Gap Analysis Program (agreement 08HQAG0123) and the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station for funding through Joint Venture Agreement 08-JV-11221633-159.