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01-07-2008 | Issue 1/2008

Environmental Management 1/2008

Fishers, Farms, and Forests in Eastern North America

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 1/2008
Authors:
Pamela A. Lancaster, Jeff Bowman, Bruce A. Pond

Abstract

The fisher (Martes pennanti) has recently recovered from historic extirpations across much of its geographic range. There are at least five explanations for the recovery of the fisher, including changes in the amount of habitat, the suitability of habitat, trapping pressure, societal attitudes toward predators, and climate. We evaluated a recovering fisher population in Ontario to test two conditions we viewed as necessary to support the hypothesis that fisher populations have increased due to an increase in the amount of forested land. First, we tested whether the amount of forested land has increased. Second, we tested whether contemporary fisher abundance (and therefore habitat quality) was related to the amount of forest. Topographic maps showed that the proportion of forested land in the study area had increased by 1.9% per decade since 1934 and 3.3% per decade since 1959, likely as a result of land conversion from agricultural uses. Overall the proportion of the study area that was forested increased from 29% to 40% during 1934 to 1995. Census data from the region indicated that there had been a decline in the amount of land area being farmed during the last 50 years. Recent livetrapping data showed that fisher abundance was positively related to the proportion of landscapes that were forested. Based on our results, we could not reject the hypothesis that an increase in the amount of forested land has contributed to the recovery of fisher populations.

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