The objective of this study was to investigate if patterns of snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) densities in interior Alaska are influenced by post-fire successional stage. Stages of succession were classified using the proxy Time Since Last Fire (TSLF). I estimated snowshoe hare densities during the summers of 2003 and 2004 in 5 young (10-20 yrs) and 5 old (44-46 yrs) burns, each with an adjacent unburned control, using indirect distance sampling methods. Because indirect distance sampling has not previously been applied for snowshoe hares, I compared these results with a traditional mark-recapture analysis. Hare density estimates from both methods were not statistically different. I observed that hare densities were not higher in older stands relative to unburned habitat and that hare densities were highly variable in young stands. Therefore, my research suggests that TSLF was not suitable as a stand-alone indicator of quality of habitat for snowshoe hares. Other processes and factors such as fire severity can influence successional pathways and post-fire species composition, creating both temporal and spatial variability in the development of successional stages. I recommend that other covariates, such as fire severity, be researched to address the influence of vegetation succession on hare densities.
Thesis (M.S.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2006
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