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Microhabitat Selection of Bark-Foraging Birds in Response to Fire and Fire Surrogate Treatments

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We examined the short-term response of the bark-foraging bird community to mechanical thinning, prescribed fire, and thinning/prescribed fire combination treatments designed to reduce fuel loads at study sites throughout the continental United States as part of the national Fire and Fire Surrogate (FFS) project. We modeled the effects of study site, treatment, treatment category, and time since treatment on the foraging encounter rate of four individual species (red-breasted nuthatch [Sitta canadensis], mountain chickadee [Poecile gambeli], hairy woodpecker [Picoides villosus], and brown creeper [Certhia americana]) and assessed the relative importance of several tree and snag characteristics in the selection of foraging trees by these same species. The foraging encounter rate of all four species responded inconsistently across both treatment categories and study sites. Substrate diameter was the strongest and most consistent characteristic positively influencing the selection of foraging habitat structures for all species across all treatment categories. Other influential variables included the presence of bark beetles for red-breasted nuthatches, hairy woodpeckers, and brown creepers in control and burn-only treatment areas and tree species for brown creepers in burn-only and thin-only treatment areas. Although this study did not detect any major negative treatment response by any species, our results suggest that there is substantial variability in the reaction of this particular bird community to fuel reduction treatments and that managers may need to evaluate the effects of these treatments on a site-by-site and species-by-species basis.

Keywords: cavity-nesting birds; forest restoration; mechanical; prescribed burning; thinning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-02-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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