Use of occupancy models to examine stream consumer prevalence across a land cover gradient in the southern Appalachians, USA
Frisch, John Robert
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Occupancy models were used to identify environmental parameters that best predicted the prevalence of four functionally important focal stream taxa: Tallaperla spp. (stonefly), Cambarus spp. (crayfish), Pleurocera proxima (snail), and Cottus bairidi (mottled sculpin). The study was conducted on a landscape scale within the Upper Little Tennessee River Basin (in thirty-seven streams reaches draining catchments between 18-1670 ha, within a 1,130 km2 area). The estimated proportion of patches occupied within a reach was used as a measure of focal taxon prevalence and thirty-four models were used to examine the relative association of environmental parameters with taxon occupancy. The prevalence of all four taxa was associated with land cover, and Tallaperla was largely absent below a threshold of 85-90% forest cover in the watershed. Occupancy modeling has expanded our understanding of how functionally important stream consumers are influenced by environmental parameters operating at both local and regional watershed extents.