Examining the effects of urbanization on occurrence of mammal species in natural areas of the Eastern Edwards Plateau
MetadataShow full metadata
Central Texas is experiencing urbanization at an unprecedented rate. This anthropogenic conversion of land is due in part to a rapidly growing population in the Austin and San Antonio metro areas and the development of infrastructure and resources needed to support that growth. Urban parks, greenspaces, and preserves serve to mitigate the impact of land development by serving as habitat for local wildlife populations. To maximize the potential of this habitat, we must assess how urbanization influences species across a landscape. Mesocarnivores act as top-tier predators in an ecosystem almost completely devoid of large predators and are severely impacted by urbanization and habitat fragmentation. I surveyed 72 sites (point locations) across nine different study areas throughout the eastern Edwards Plateau ecoregion of central Texas for fourteen survey occasions during 2013. Using occupancy modeling, I examined the influence of ten different urban covariates on mesocarnivore occurrence. Generalist species, such as raccoons and opossums, had an increased probability of occurrence at sites with higher urban influence and were most likely to occur in smaller more urban study areas. Ringtails and grey foxes appeared to be unaffected by urbanization and were equally likely to occur across all sites. Results for other species, such as the coyote and skunk, were inconclusive. Most species had very low probability of detection with only the raccoon and fox having a probability greater than 0.1. Knowledge of the effect of urbanization on wildlife could assist us in evaluating current preserves as well as devising strategies to conserve species in any planned future preserves.