Factors Affecting the Availability of Thick Epiphyte Mats and Other Potential Nest Platforms for Marbled Murrelets in British Columbia

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Nest platforms (mossy pads, limbs, and deformities >15 cm in diameter) are key requirements in the forest nesting habitat of the threatened Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus(J.F. Gmelin, 1789)). Little is known about factors that affect the availability of platforms or the growth of canopy epiphytes that provide platforms. We examined variables affecting these parameters in coastal trees in British Columbia using data from 29 763 trees at 1412 sites in 170 watersheds. Tree diameter (diameter at breast height (DBH)) was the most important predictor of platform availability in the pooled data and within each of six regions. In most regions, platforms become available at DBH > 60 cm, but on East Vancouver Island, DBH needs to be >96 cm and possibly on the Central Coast >82 cm. Other regional predictors of platforms included tree height, tree species, and to a lesser extent elevation, slope, and latitude. Most (72%) trees providing platforms had epiphytes (mainly moss) covering one third or more of branch surfaces and 81% had intermediate or thick epiphyte mats. Mistletoe deformities provided <7% of platforms. Our model predictions help to define and manage suitable habitat for nesting Marbled Murrelets and also contribute to understanding forest canopy ecosystems.



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