Responses of mammals to native and non-native riparian forest types in Southeastern Arizona

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Riparian areas are an important resource, especially in the arid southwest, for many wildlife species. Understanding species occurrence in areas dominated by non-native vegetation is important to determine if management

Riparian areas are an important resource, especially in the arid southwest, for many wildlife species. Understanding species occurrence in areas dominated by non-native vegetation is important to determine if management should be implemented. Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is one of the most prevalent non-native trees in riparian areas in the southwest United States and can alter vegetation structure, but little is known about how medium and large carnivores use stands of saltcedar. Three riparian forest types make up the San Pedro riparian corridor: non-native saltcedar, native mesquite (Prosopis spp.) bosque, and a mixture of native cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and willow (Salix goodingii) woodlands. My goals were to determine relative use, diversity, and occupancy of medium and large mammals across forest types to evaluate use of the non-native stands. I sampled mammals along approximately 25.7 river kilometers between July 2017 and October 2018, using 18 trail cameras (six per forest type) spaced 1km apart. I summarized environmental variables around the camera sites to relate them to species occupancy and reduced them to 4 components using a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). I observed 14 carnivore species, including bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), and coati (Nasua narica) over 7,692 trap nights. Occupancy of some species may have been influenced by the different components, but models showed high standard errors, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. Most mammal species used all three forest types at some level and no surveyed forest type was completely avoided or unused. Coyote tended to have greater use in the mesquite forest while canids trended toward greater use in saltcedar forest. Based on two-species occupancy models as well as activity overlap patterns, subordinate species did not appear to avoid dominant species. No species seems significantly affected by non-native saltcedar at this time.