Scott Nielsen

Scott Nielsen
University of Alberta | UAlberta · Department of Renewable Resources

Doctor of Philosophy

About

239
Publications
55,345
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10,307
Citations
Citations since 2017
125 Research Items
6034 Citations
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201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200
201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200

Publications

Publications (239)
Article
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Understanding how maximum canopy height is related to forest community assembly is essential yet largely unexplored. Maximum canopy height is affected by competition and abiotic environmental factors through different ecological processes (e.g., niche differentiation and environmental filtering), as well as historical or stochastic factors. However...
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High-quality ground-truth data are critical for developing reliable Earth Observation (EO) based geospatial products. Conventional methods of collecting these data are either subject to an unknown amount of human error and bias or require extended time in the field to complete (i.e., point-intercept assessments). Digital photograph classification (...
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Variable retention forest harvesting aims to reduce negative effects of harvesting on forest biodiversity, but knowledge gaps remain regarding its effects on some taxa over longer post-harvest timeframes. To better understand effects of variable retention and environmental features on amphibians, we used pitfall traps to capture wood frogs (Lithoba...
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Treed peatlands are dominated by bryophytes, particularly Sphagnum spp., which create the characteristic hummock‐hollow microtopography. This, in turn, shapes the distribution of bryophyte communities. Disturbances can lead to a loss of this microtopographic variation, impacting the bryophyte community. Seismic lines are deforested linear disturban...
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Treed peatlands can exhibit dramatic shifts in woody plant cover when they are bisected by roads, a product of change in the flow of surface and subsurface water; however, the edge effects that roads have on overstory cover remain poorly understood. We examined how road and environmental conditions influence woody cover in treed fens in northeaster...
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Climate change refugia are areas that are relatively buffered from contemporary climate change and may be important safe havens for wildlife and plants under anthropogenic climate change. Topographic variation is an important driver of thermal heterogeneity, but it is limited in relatively flat landscapes, such as the boreal plain and prairie regio...
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Electrical transmission line development has been expanding globally by 5% per year, leading to increases in avian collisions with lines. Canadian estimates of transmission line collision mortalities range from 2.5 to 25.6 million birds per year, with the majority of mortalities attributed to collisions with overhead shield wires, and by susceptibl...
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Energy exploration has led to fragmentation of habitats worldwide. In boreal forests of Alberta, Canada narrow clear-cut linear disturbances (3–14 m wide) called seismic lines are often the largest local source of forest fragmentation. Many lines have failed to recover decades after their creation leading to changes in forest dynamics and biodivers...
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ABSTRACT Questions Ecologists collecting field samples of biological data have a keen interest in addressing the following question: how many rare species are there in as-yet unsurveyed additional samples? Depending on the size of a targeted additional sample, statistical models for estimating the number of rare species had not been systematically...
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Edge influence on forest biodiversity is an important environmental effect associated with habitat fragmentation, but extrapolating the influence of edges across the broader landscape has been difficult, especially for situations where multiple edges exist in close proximity. We asked whether there were differences in edge effects between two types...
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Demand for petroleum products is causing habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation of boreal forests in western Canada. Associated exploratory and extraction activities from in situ oil sands leave a network of (1) permanent polygonal features (e.g., processing facilities, extraction sites, gravel pits); (2) permanent linear features (e.g., roads...
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Diet is one of the most common traits used to organize species of animals into niches. For ruminant herbivores, the breadth and uniqueness of their dietary niche are placed on a spectrum from browsers that consume woody (i.e., browse) and herbaceous (i.e., forbs) plants, to grazers with graminoid-rich diets. However, seasonal changes in plant avail...
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Restoring anthropogenic footprints to pre-disturbance conditions or minimizing their long-term impacts is an important goal in conservation. Many footprints, particularly if left alone, have wide-ranging effects on biodiversity. In Canada, energy exploration footprints result in forest dissection and fragmentation contributing to declines in woodla...
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Ecological impacts of linear anthropogenic disturbances may be underestimated due to edge effects extending into adjacent forests. Seismic lines are the most pervasive linear disturbance associated with oil and gas development in the boreal forests of western North America. The width and orientation of seismic lines may influence microclimatic edge...
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Wildfires are a key driver of boreal forest structure and community composition that alter food resources affecting the behaviour and ecology of wildlife. In the first 50 years post-wildfire, woody browse availability in upland forests increase in quantity and quality for generalist ungulates, such as moose (Alces alces) and white-tailed deer (Odoc...
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Understanding how invertebrates respond to disturbance is important to maintaining biodiversity. In western Canadian boreal forests, anthropogenic linear corridors associated with energy exploration are a pervasive disturbance that affect many species. Trees and large shrubs are removed in a grid of narrow corridors, but the understory vegetation i...
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The island species area relationship (ISAR) is an important tool for measuring variation in species diversity in variety of insular systems, from true‐island archipelagoes to fragmented terrestrial landscapes. However, it suffers from several limitations. For example, due to the sample‐area effect, positive relationships between species and area ca...
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Successful recovery and management of threatened and endangered species requires an understanding of the capacity of the available habitat to support the species. Measuring habitat supply, or specific elements of that habitat, has been a key objective and challenge in wildlife management, especially for wide-ranging omnivorous species. In this stud...
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Linear disturbances from geological exploration (i.e., seismic lines) have an extensive footprint across much of Canada’s western boreal forest; however, how seismic lines interact with subsequent wildfire remains poorly understood. We assessed whether wildfires effectively mitigate the footprint of seismic lines by promoting forest recovery. We ev...
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Snow is understood to limit wildlife movements, often being the most important determinant of winter movement for animals in the boreal forest. However, the combined effect of snow and temperature on the movement ecology of animals at high latitudes is less understood. We used GPS-collar data from a small population of wood bison (Bison bison athab...
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Seismic lines are linear forest clearings used for oil and gas exploration. The mechanical opening of forests for these narrow (3-10 meter) lines is believed to simplify microtopographic complexity and depress local topographic elevation. In treed peatlands, simplified microtopography limits tree regeneration by removing favourable microsites (humm...
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Research Highlights: The effects of fire on birds in the most northern parts of the boreal forest are understudied. We found distinct differences in bird communities with increasing fire severity in two vegetation types with naturally different burn severity. The highest severity burns tended to have communities dominated by generalist species, reg...
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Retention forestry is an approach in which live trees and other components of forest structure are retained within harvested areas. A primary objective of retention forestry is to maintain biodiversity and to hasten post-harvest recovery of forest structure and function. Retention is now a key element in sustainable forest management practices in m...
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Assessments of large-scale changes in habitat are a priority for management and conservation. Traditional approaches use land use and land cover data (LULC) that focus mostly on "structural" properties of landscapes, rather than "functional" properties related to specific ecological processes. Here, we contend that designing functional analyses of...
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By regulating successional dynamics in Canada’s boreal forest, fires can affect the distribution of the Threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou (Gmelin, 1788)). Caribou tend to avoid areas burned within the last 40 years; however, few studies have compared pre-fire and post-fire caribou observations. In this study, we used caribou GP...
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The intersection of wildlife and people on roads raises two critical issues: the barrier and mortality effects of roads on wildlife and risks to people from animal‐vehicle collisions (AVCs). Road mitigation decisions are typically made at the discretion of transportation departments that are mandated to primarily address motorist safety. Therefore,...
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1. In ecological niche theory, diet is a trait frequently used to place species along a continuum from specialists to generalists. A multidimensional approach to investigating species' niches has been developed to incorporate nutrition. We apply the concepts of multidimensional nutritional niche theory to the dietary patterns of a widespread, large...
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During the 2016 breeding season we monitored 169 nest boxes suitable for Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus) and Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) in high-latitude (>55°N) boreal forests of northwestern Alberta affected by partial logging. Despite the large number of boxes deployed, the number of boxes used by Boreal and Northern Saw-whet Owls w...
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Previous work in landscape genetics suggests that geographic isolation is of greater importance to genetic divergence than variation in environmental conditions. This is intuitive when configurations of suitable habitat are the dominant factor limiting dispersal and gene flow, but has not been thoroughly examined for habitat specialists with strong...
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Environmental niche modeling is an increasingly common tool in conservation and management of non-timber species. In particular, models of species’ habitats have been aided by new advances in remote sensing and it is now possible to relate forest structure variables to understory species at a relatively high resolution over large spatial scales. He...
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The world’s forests are highly fragmented by linear disturbances, many of which have failed to recover decades after abandonment. Lack of recovery is common in unproductive forests, such as treed peatlands, due to conditions that limit tree growth including simplification of microtopography (loss of microsites). The persistence of these features af...
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Significance The persistence of large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes will become increasingly challenging as the human footprint expands. Here, we bring together long-term demographic and behavioral data on one of the worlds’ most conflict-prone species, the brown bear, to quantify the mechanisms facilitating human–carnivore coexistence....
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An important part of landscape ecology is to identify relationships between landscape characteristics and ecological processes. One common approach to this is relating raster surfaces to ecological responses, assuming that the characteristics emphasized by rasters are representative of the processes determining changes in the ecological responses b...
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Industrial activities for resource extraction have led to a network of seismic lines across Canada’s boreal regions where peatlands often make up over 50% of the landscape. These clearings can have a significant influence on ecosystem functioning through vegetation removal, flattening of microtopography, altering hydrological pathways, and impactin...
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Predicting habitat for rare species at landscape scales is a common goal of environmental monitoring, management, and conservation; however, the ability to meet that objective is often limited by the paucity of location records and availability of spatial predictors that effectively describe their habitat. To address this challenge, we used an adap...
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In peatlands, micro-topography strongly affects understory plant communities. Disturbance can result in a loss of micro-topographic variation, primarily through the loss of hummocks. To address this, mounding treatments can be used to restore micro-topography. We examined the effects of mounding on the understory vegetation on seismic lines in wood...
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Ground-dwelling macrolichens dominate the forest floor of mature upland pine stands in the boreal forest. Understanding patterns of lichen abundance, as well as environmental characteristics associated with lichen growth, is key to managing lichens as a forage resource for threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). The spectral signat...
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Determining how resource availability changes daily, seasonally and annually, and how wildlife react to these changes, is valuable for managing wildlife. For vegetative resources phenological information can be used to determine availability and model the distribution of available resources. This study develops a set of annually varying species dis...
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The vast boreal biome plays an important role in the global carbon cycle but is experiencing particularly rapid climate warming, threatening the integrity of valued ecosystems and their component species. We developed a framework and taxonomy to identify climate‐change refugia potential in the North American boreal region, summarizing current knowl...
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The challenge of understanding how composite disturbances affect ecosystems is a central theme of modern ecology. For instance, anthropogenic footprints and wildfire are increasing globally, but how they combine remains poorly understood. Here, we assessed how a disturbance legacy of about 10-m-wide cutlines, cleared for seismic assessments of foss...
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Global and national commitments to slow biodiversity loss by expanding protected area networks also provide opportunities to evaluate conservation priorities in the face of climate change. Using recently developed indicators of climatic macrorefugia, environmental diversity, and corridors, we conducted a systematic, climate‐informed prioritization...
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Understanding the role of dominant species in structuring the distribution of neighbor species is an important part of understanding community assembly, a central goal of ecology. Phylogenetic information helps resolve the multitude of processes driving community assemb - ly and the importance of evolution in the assembly process. In this study, we...
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Research Highlights: Black spruce (Picea mariana Mill.) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) both regenerated vigorously after wildfire. However, pure semi-upland black spruce stands are at increasing risk of changing successional trajectories, due to greater aspen recruitment. Background and Objectives: Black spruce and aspen are found...
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Estimating distribution and abundance of species depends on the probability at which individuals are detected. Butterflies are of conservation interest worldwide, but data collected with Pollard walks - the standard for national monitoring schemes - are often analyzed assuming that changes in detectability are negligible within recommended sampling...
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Since their threatened species listing in 2010, grizzly bear recovery has been a controversial policy issue in Alberta, Canada particularly because this charismatic carnivore represents a diverse set of values, both positive (e.g., an icon of beauty and the wilderness) and negative (e.g., a safety threat and economic risk to peoples’ livelihoods)....
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Across their North American range, grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) occupy a special place in human imagination, as icons of nature's rugged and raw power, to representations of safety risks and economic costs of living with carnivores. Different bear representations can also be found across news media, from controversial and sensational descriptions o...
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Habitat selection is a behavioural process that ultimately affects animal fitness. Forage availability and predation risk are often studied in the context of habitat selection for large ungulates, while other biological and environmental factors such as insect harassment and footing are less studied. Here we examine trade-offs in summer habitat sel...
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This study assessed the reproductive success of a temperate dioecious shrub, Canada buffaloberry, Shepherdia canadensis (L.) Nutt., in central Alberta, Canada, by examining the effects of spatial patterns and overstory canopy on flower and fruit production. S. canadensis is more abundant and productive (more fruit) at forest edges and in forest gap...
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Grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) populations residing in interior ecosystems of North America are known to frequent harvested areas and areas burnt by wildfires, as both disturbances encourage growth of early seral vegetation preferred by them. This is especially evident in places where there is a paucity of large natural openings and areas with a long...
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Rare species are an ecologically important component of biological communities, but may be at risk of decline as a result of human disturbance and other sources of environmental change. Rare species are also ecologically idiosyncratic, making their occurrence difficult to predict a priori, and leading to efforts to find surrogate measures of rare s...
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Human-mediated disturbances can lead to novel environmental features that can affect native biota beyond simple habitat loss. In boreal forests of western Canada, linear features (LFs; e.g., pipelines, seismic lines, and roads) are known to alter behaviour, movements, and interactions among species. Understanding LF impacts on native species has th...
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To model regional vegetation cycles through data fusion methods for creating a 30‐m daily vegetation product from 2000–2018 and to analyse annual vegetation trends over this time period. The Yellowhead Bear Management Area, a 31,180‐km2 area in west central Alberta, Canada. In this paper, we use Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) as a data fusion technique...
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Woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) are reliant on Cladonia spp. ground lichens as a major component of their diet and lichen abundance could be an important indicator of habitat quality, particularly in winter. The boreal forest is typified by large, stand-replacing forest fires that consume ground lichens, which take decades to recover....
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Understanding what factors influence the occurrence and distribution across the landscape is necessary for species conservation and management. Distribution data for many owl species are inadequate because of their nocturnal behavior and cryptic nature. We examined the role of climate, land cover, and human disturbance in shaping spatial distributi...
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Understanding what factors influence the occurrence and distribution across the landscape is necessary for species conservation and management. Distribution data for many owl species are inadequate because of their nocturnal behavior and cryptic nature. We examined the role of climate, land cover, and human disturbance in shaping spatial distributi...
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Railway networks contribute to the direct mortality of wildlife through collisions with trains, which can threaten vulnerable wildlife populations even in protected areas, including grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) in Banff and Yoho National Parks, Canada. Mitigation to reduce bear‐train collisions requires information about how grizzly bears use the r...
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Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) is an important early successional species in the boreal region that commonly regenerates via root suckering and, to a lesser extent, stump sprouting after aboveground disturbance such as harvesting or wildfire. However, the response of aspen to disturbance on reclaimed oil sands sites is not known. To d...
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Butterflies are widely invoked as model organisms in studies of metapopulation and dispersal processes. Integral to such investigations are understandings of perceptual range; the maximum distance at which organisms are able to detect patches of suitable habitat. To infer perceptual range, researchers have released butterflies at varying distances...
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Wildfire is the predominant natural disturbance in the boreal forests of western Canada. Natural disturbance based forest management involves the use of retention harvesting to retain stand structural diversity after harvest; however, unlike fire, this partial harvesting technique does not cause combustion of the forest floor. Application of prescr...
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Butterflies have played a pivotal role in our understanding of animal movement, but little is known about landscape-scale movement in highly vagile species with large ranges and open population structure. We investigate the effect of environment and landscape on both inter- and intraspecific genetic differentiation and population structure in the P...
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Warming temperatures are advancing the timing of seasonal vegetation development in the extratropics, altering plant–animal interactions and increasing the risk of trophic asynchrony. Forest understories are critical yet under-observed ecosystems in which phenological patterns are both altered and obscured by overstory trees. We address the challen...
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Habitat characteristics associated with species occurrences represent important baseline information for wildlife management and conservation, but have rarely been assessed for countries recently joining the EU. We used footprint tracking data and landscape characteristics in Romania to investigate the occurrence of brown bear (Ursus arctos), gray...
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Retention harvesting, or the approach of leaving live mature trees behind during forest harvest, is used in natural disturbance‐based management to mitigate the effects of logging on biodiversity. However, responses of many boreal vertebrates to variable retention harvesting are unknown. We investigated the influence of different retention levels i...
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Seismic lines are narrow linear (~3–8 m wide) forest clearings that are used for petroleum exploration in Alberta’s boreal forest. Many seismic lines have experienced poor tree regeneration since initial disturbance, with most failures occurring in treed peatlands that are used by the threatened woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou). Extensi...
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Grizzly bears should benefit from forest harvesting strategies that emulate patterns of natural disturbance, such as wildfire, presumably because of increased foraging opportunities associated with open and edge habitats. Several studies have linked early seral habitats associated with natural and anthropogenic disturbances to increased food supply...
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The boreal forest in Canada comprises a wide variety of ecosystems, including stabilized (overgrown) sand dunes, often referred to as sand hills. Globally, sandy soils are known for supporting a high diversity of invertebrates, including ants, but little is known for boreal systems. We used pitfall trap sampling in sand hill, aspen parkland and pea...
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Wildlife mortality caused by collisions with vehicles on roads is increasingly and effectively mitigated with exclusion fencing and crossing structures, but this solution potentially changes wildlife habitat use and distribution to increase the risk of mortality on adjacent, unmitigated railways. We investigated this potential side‐effect of mitiga...
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Questions Are graminoids more poorly detected than other life forms of vascular plants in surveys? How well do observer‐, species‐, and site‐specific variables explain variation in detection of Carex species across forests of different structure? Location Northeastern Alberta, Canada. Methods Species inventories were assessed within 50 belt trans...
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Given projected rates of climate change, species with limited dispersal may be unable to migrate at the pace necessary to maintain their current climate niches. This could lead to increased risk of extirpation or extinction, especially for locally range-restricted species within fragmented landscapes. Assisted migration has been suggested as a proa...
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Future changes in climate are widely anticipated to increase fire frequency, particularly in boreal forests where extreme warming is expected to occur. Feedbacks between vegetation and fire may modify the direct effects of warming on fire activity and shape ecological responses to changing fire frequency. We investigate these interactions using ext...