Huber, N., F. Kienast, C. Ginzer & G. Pasinelli (2016)

Using remote-sensing data to assess habitat selection of a declining passerine at two spatial scales.

Further information

Landsc. Ecol. 31: 1919–1937



Context Detailed information on habitat needs is integral to identify conservation measures for declining species. However, field data on habitat structure is typically limited in extent. Remote sensing has the potential to overcome these limitations of field-based studies.
Objective We aimed to assess abiotic and biotic characteristics of territories used by the declining wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix), a forest-interior migratory passerine, at two spatial scales by evaluating a priori expectations of habitat selection patterns.
Methods First, territories established by males before pairing, referred to as pre-breeding territories, were compared to pseudo-absence control areas located in the wider forested landscape (first spatial scale, Nterritories = 66, Ncontrols = 66). Second, breeding territories of paired wood warblers were compared to true-absence control areas located immediately close-by in the forest (second spatial scale, Nterritories = 78, Ncontrols = 78). Habitat variables predominantly described forest structure and were mainly based on first and last pulse lidar (light detection and ranging) data.
Results Occurrence of pre-breeding territories was related to vegetation height, vertical diversity and stratification, canopy cover, inclination and solar radiation. Occurrence of breeding territories was associated to vegetation height, vertical diversity and inclination.
Conclusions Territory selection at the two spatial scales addressed was governed by similar factors. With respect to conservation, habitat suitability for wood warblers could be retained by maintaining a shifting mosaic of stand ages and structures at large spatial scales. Moreover, leaf-off lidar variables have the potential to contribute to understanding the ecological niche of species in predominantly deciduous forests.
keywords: Birds, Forest structure, GLMMs, Habitat model, Leaf-off, Lidar, Phylloscopus sibilatrix, Switzerland, Sylviidae, Wood warbler