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Landscape- and Micro-scale Habitat Selection by Greater Short-horned Lizards Open Access


Other title
Grasslands National Park
critical habitat
thermal habitat
Phrynosoma hernandesi
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Fink, Krista A
Supervisor and department
Nielsen, Scott (Renewable Resources)
Pruss, Shelley (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Bayne, Erin (Biological Sciences)
Paszkowski, Cynthia (Biological Sciences)
Poesch, Mark (Renewable Resources)
Department of Renewable Resources
Conservation Biology
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Identification of critical habitat for species at risk is an essential component of the protection of rare species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In this study, I identified important microsite and landscape-level habitat characteristics for endangered greater short-horned lizards (Phrynosoma hernandesi) at their northern range limit in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. A total of 650 km of transect surveys were used to analyze habitat selection based on locations where lizards were detected relative to available random locations. At the microsite level, I compared occupied locations (n = 118) to random landscape (n = 234) and random home range locations (n = 117) in 0.3 m2 ground cover plots and 0.12 m2 thermal plots using a classification and regression tree. Comparisons of occupied and random landscape microsites suggested that lizards selected microsites with higher diversity of ground cover types, especially in areas with high cover of exposed soil. At the home-range scale, lizards selected habitats with complex combinations of ground cover types and thermal characteristics. Selection was greatest for microsites with low vegetation height, low cover of lichens and mosses, and minimum temperatures that were >26.2°C, although other combinations of microsite characteristics were also supported at the home-range scale. A model of landscape-scale habitat selection (resource selection function) was also estimated for the Park using 101 lizard locations and 5000 random available locations sampled along 650 km of meander transects. Habitat selection in summer was predicted best by juniper-dune vegetation community, iii vegetation patchiness, and perhaps paradoxically areas of lower solar radiation. This model was used to define critical habitat for conservation management and to estimate an index of population size for the Park using the number of lizards detected, strip width of transects and classified habitat resulting in ~13,000 adult lizards. This population index provides a baseline for monitoring the success of conservation actions. As new information becomes available for this under-studied species, improvements in the definition of critical habitat should be considered.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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