Landscape development and mule deer habitat in Central Oregon JA Duncan, T Burcsu - Notes, 2012 (posted 2013) US Forest Service

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Landscape development and mule deer habitat in Central Oregon JA Duncan, T Burcsu - Notes, 2012 (posted 2013) US Forest Service
This research explored the ecological consequences of rural residential development and different management regimes on a tract of former industrial timberland in central Oregon known as the Bull Springs. Forage quality and habitat suitability models for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) winter range were joined to the outputs of a spatially explicit vegetation dynamics model under two management scenarios. In one scenario, the tract was managed as a working forest excluding development, and in the other, development was allowed to occur at historical rates. Landscape pattern analysis was used to measure differences between the outcomes of the two scenarios. Our efforts showed that allowing development on the tract could potentially lead to greater isolation, smaller habitat patches, and decreased extensiveness of patches used for foraging across mule deer winter range. Patches providing multiple habitat functions also became more isolated and less numerous in our simulations. Although neither scenario prevented habitat degradation, restricting development on Bull Springs had slightly more favorable simulated outcomes for forage and multifunctional habitat conditions. Management of this tract as a working forest in a region under pressure for more residential development could reduce the negative effects of development on an iconic species in the region. This research provides insight into how the land use change trajectory of a small portion of the landscape can influence the larger ecological conditions of a region undergoing rapid rural residential development.

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