Home ranges of lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) include up to several thousand ha of several habitat types that are concentrated around leks (traditional display grounds). A geographic information system (GIS) was used to relate changes in vegetation and land use to population trends of lesser prairie-chickens in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. We quantified changes in vegetation within 4.8 km of lesser prairie-chicken leks and examined relationships among those changes and long-term population trends based on the number of displaying males per lek. Five of 13 populations declined between 1959 and 1996. Landscapes in which populations of lesser prairie-chickens declined were characterized by greater rates of landscape change and greater loss of shrubland cover types than landscapes in which populations did not decline. Changes of specific cover types were not as important as the total amount of change occurring on landscapes. Conservation of lesser prairie-chickens should focus on stability of vegetation and land use and specifically attempt to maintain continuity of shrublands within 4.8 km of existing leks.
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Vol. 145 • No. 2