The importance of landscape heterogeneity for the abundance and distribution of wildlife is well recognized. General relationships have been developed to link landscape pattern to demographic processes, although these relations are best demonstrated for species with specialized habitat requirements and often in landscapes that can be generalized to a simple habitat-matrix structure. Habitat generalists may interact in more complex ways with a mosaic of landscape features. A novel method for quantifying the habitat relationships of generalist species using thematic vegetation maps was proposed by Brotons et al. (2005) and based on a theoretical model by Andrén, Delin, and Seiler (1997). We tested the efficacy of this approach on moose (Alces alces) distribution in the heterogeneous landscapes of the Foothills Natural Region, Alberta, Canada, using 8 broad vegetation types. Fecal pellet group data, an index of moose occurrence, was compared across pre-selected sites. Sites were selected to represent the variable amounts and combinations of the different vegetation types available in the study area. Moose habitat preference was determined using a Chi-square test and Bonferroni confidence intervals. Moose preferred shrublands and deciduous forests. Shrubland was considered primary moose habitat as it had the highest observed proportion of pellet groups of the preferred habitats. Each vegetation type was assessed regarding its role in habitat amount, habitat compensation, supplementation, complementation, and fragmentation models using general linear modelling. Habitat amount and fragmentation were related to moose pellet occurrence. However, there was no indication of supplementation, compensation, or complementation. This mosaic approach effectively revealed habitat relationships and the potential impacts of habitat change for a generalist species at the landscape scale.
Nomenclature: Kays & Wilson, 2002.