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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Rangeland Resources & Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #362330

Title: Anthropogenic noise does not surpass land cover in explaining habitat selection of Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanichus cupido)

item Raynor, Edward
item HARRISON, JOCELYN - University Of Nebraska
item WHALEN, CARA - University Of Nebraska
item SMITH, JENNIFER - University Of Nebraska
item SCHACHT, WALTER - University Of Nebraska
item BENSON, JOHN - University Of Nebraska
item TYRE, ANDREW - University Of Nebraska
item BROWN, MARY - University Of Nebraska
item POWELL, LARKIN - University Of Nebraska

Submitted to: The Condor: Ornithological Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/25/2019
Publication Date: 10/9/2019
Citation: Raynor, E.J., Harrison, J.O., Whalen, C.E., Smith, J.A., Schacht, W.H., Benson, J.F., Tyre, A.J., Brown, M.B., Powell, L.A. 2019. Anthropogenic noise does not surpass land cover in explaining habitat selection of Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tympanichus cupido). The Condor: Ornithological Applications. 121(4):duz044.

Interpretive Summary: This article evaluates the role of the acoustic environment in concert with physical landscape features in mediating habitat selection of a prairie of conservation concern. Along an anthropogenic noise gradient spanning southward 15 miles from the wind energy facility in Ainsworth, Nebraska, within-home range habitat selection is determined for female Greater Prairie-Chicken (Tymannuchus cupido pinnatus) during the breeding season. Proximity to trees and row-crop agriculture were avoided across the study area, whereas distance to wind turbine and the presence of human-made noise did not affect space use despite being consistently noisy locations. These findings fill a gap in our knowledge of acoustic habitat selection in a ground-dwelling grassland bird which utilizes the same low-frequency acoustic spectrum as wind turbine noise.

Technical Abstract: Over the last century, increasing human populations and conversion of grassland to agriculture have had severe consequences for numbers of Greater Prairie-Chickens (Tympannuchus cupido). Understanding Greater Prairie-Chicken response to human disturbance, including the effects of anthropogenic noise and landscape modification, is vital for conserving populations. Characterizing and managing the acoustic environment, in addition to the dominant physical land cover, are integral components for terrestrial ecosystem management. Here, we evaluate the effect of low-frequency noise emitted from a wind energy facility within the study species' operative acoustic spectrum on habitat selection. We used the Normalized Difference Soundscape Index, a ratio of human-generated and biological acoustic components to determine the impact of the acoustic characteristics relative to physical landscape features known to influence within-home range habitat selection. Female Greater Prairie-Chickens avoided wooded areas and row crops but showed no selection for wind turbines based on the availability of these features across their home range. Although the acoustic environment near the wind energy facility was dominated by anthropogenic noise, our results show that acoustic habitat selection is not evident for this species. In contrast, our work highlights the need to manage physical landscape features including the presence of trees in grassland systems, where tall structures have been historically absent, as well as row crop agriculture. Given that habitat loss can be inferred from behavioral avoidance, our results have consequences for the management and conservation of prairie grouse breeding in grassland systems increasingly exposed to woody encroachment, energy development, and row crop agriculture intensification.