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Occupancy rates of primary burrowing crayfish in natural and disturbed large river bottomlands

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Among crayfish, primary burrowing species are the least understood ecologically. Many primary burrowing crayfish inhabit floodplains where forested landscapes have been fragmented by agricultural, industrial, or residential uses. In this study, site occupancy rates (ψ) were modeled for two primary burrowing crayfish, Fallicambarus fodiens (Cottle, 1863) and Cambarus thomai Jezerinac, 1993, from Ohio and Kanawha river floodplains in West Virginia, U.S.A. Fallicambarus fodiens is one of West Virginia’s rarest crayfish, while C. thomai is prevalent in most wetlands along both river floodplains. Occupancy rate modeling incorporated four environmental covariates (forest age, soil type, tree frequency, and land use). Based on presence/absence data, forests with tree ages >100 years (ΔQAICc = 0) and sites with loam soils (ΔQAICc = 1.80) were most likely to harbor F. fodiens populations. For C. thomai, several models were supported owing to model selection uncertainty, but those with the land use covariate had more total model weight (total w i = 0 . 54 ) than all other covariate models. Cambarus thomai rarely occupied industrial/agricultural sites, but were often present in forested and residential sites. Although the influence of covariates on site occupancy differed between species, both taxa readily utilized mature forested habitats when available. Conservation actions for F. fodiens and C. thomai should focus on preserving forested tracts along large river floodplains

Affiliations: 1: 1Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, West Liberty University, West Liberty, West Virginia 26074, U.S.A.; 2: 2U.S. Geological Survey, West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, POB 6125, Morgantown, West Virginia 26506, U.S.A.; 3: 3Department of Biology, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana 47809, U.S.A.


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