Are sage-grouse fine-scale specialists or shrub-steppe generalists?

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This study employed meta‐analyses of studies published from 1991 to 2019 to help resolve the role of fine‐scale vegetation structure in nest site selection and nest success across the geographic range of greater sage‐grouse and evaluate the validity of established habitat management objectives. Our approach tested habitat relationships at a range‐wide extent and a grain size closely matching scales at which agencies make management decisions. We found moderate, but context‐dependent, effects of shrub characteristics and weak effects of herbaceous vegetation on nest site selection. None of the tested vegetation characteristics were related to variation in nest success, suggesting nesting habitat–fitness relationships have been inappropriately extrapolated in developing range‐wide habitat management objectives. Our findings reveal surprising flexibility in habitat use for a species often depicted as having very particular fine‐scale habitat requirements, and cast doubt on the practice of adopting precise management objectives for vegetation structure based on findings of individual small‐scale field studies.

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