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Avian responses to experimental harvest in southern boreal mixedwood shoreline forests: implications for riparian buffer management

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Conventional management of shoreline forest in harvested boreal landscapes involves retention of treed buffer strips to provide habitat for wildlife species and protect aquatic habitats from deleterious effects of harvesting. With shoreline forests being considered for harvest in several jurisdictions, it is important to determine the potential impacts of this disturbance on birds. In this study, responses of riparian- and upland-nesting birds to three levels of harvest (0%–50%, 50%–75%, and 75%–100% within 100 m of the water) in shoreline forests around boreal wetlands were assessed 1 year before and each year for 4 years after harvest relative to unharvested reference sites. Upland-nesting species showed variable responses to harvest, with greatest declines in abundance of interior forest nesting species (e.g., Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapillus L.) with the highest levels of harvest. Shrub-nesting and generalist species increased in abundance in harvest treatments relative to reference sites. Riparian birds showed little response to harvest, suggesting that shoreline forest harvest has little effect on their abundance up to 4 years after harvest. Retention of small buffers may not be an effective management strategy for conservation of birds occupying shoreline forests, particularly interior forest nesting species. We suggest that alternatives to conventional buffer management be explored.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 112 Science Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5E2, Canada. 2: Ducks Unlimited Canada, #100 17958 106th Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5S 1V4, Canada. 3: Environment Canada, 11 Innovation Place, Saskatoon, SK S7N 3H5, Canada. 4: Department of Biological Sciences, Z 923A Biological Sciences Building, University of Alberta, 11455 SK Drive, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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