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Toward a Panther-centered View of the Forests of South Florida

Andrew J Kerkhoff, University of New Mexico
Bruce T Milne, University of New Mexico
David S Maehr, University of Kentucky

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Abstract

Anthropogenic habitat degradation and loss is the single largest threat to the endangered Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi. Conservation of the subspecies must be undertaken on the scale of the entire landscape. Thus, a view of the forested landscape of South Florida must be developed that is meaningful with reference to the panther. We approach this problem by analyzing the spatial interactions of panthers and forests at multiple scales. We apply tools derived from fractal geometry to the analysis of 12 years of telemetry observations of panthers and remotely sensed forest cover imagery. A fractal characterization extends conventional scale-dependent measures of forest density and relates intuitively to panther ecology. To move toward a panther-centered view of the forests of South Florida, we adopt a scale-dependent notion of association and compare the density of forest cover associated with panther locations to that of the forest at large. Panthers interact with forest cover over a wide range of scales, consistently selecting denser than average forest areas. We discuss landscape-scale management of the panther in light of our findings and propose a protocol for mapping forest cover with reference to the panther at multiple scales as a mangement tool for habitat assessment.

Key words

Puma concolor coryi, Florida panther, anthropogenic disturbance, conditional mapping, controls on distribution, fractal analysis, habitat selection, landscape conservation, organism-centered landscapes, scale dependence, telemetry
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087