Category: Ecological Research
Title: Forest Stand Characteristics Altered by Restoration Affect Western Bluebird Habitat Quality
Author: Wightman, C.S. , Germaine, S.S.
Subject: Stand Treatment, Ecological Restoration, Birds, Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii), Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
Abstract: Forest managers are setting Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests in the southwestern United States on a trajectory toward a restored ecosystem by reducing tree densities and managing with prescribed fire. The process of restoration dramatically alters forest stands, and the effects of these changes on wildlife remain unclear. Our research evaluated which aspects of habitat alteration from restoration treatments may be affecting the habitat quality of Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana), an insectivorous songbird whose populations are declining. Habitat loss resulting from fire-suppression activities may be partially responsible for their population declines; thus, the bluebird is a good representative species for assessing how the reconstruction of presuppression forest conditions can affect wildlife. We measured habitat variables at 63 successful and 19 unsuccessful Western Bluebird nests in 1999?2001 and 2003. We compared habitat models that represented bluebird biology and habitat changes from restoration. Two models of nest success that included (1) an increased herbaceous and bare ground cover and (2) increased Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii) densities and reduced Ponderosa pine densities were most supported by the data. Increased herbaceous ground cover and Gambel oak density likely represent improved invertebrate assemblages and thus improved forage abundance for nesting bluebirds. Lower Ponderosa pine densities may provide bluebirds with open perches from which to hunt and thereby improve the availability of invertebrates as a food source. We also provide a landscape-scale example of changes to bluebird habitat quality from treatments, which we recommend as a useful tool in restoration planning.
Source: Restoration Ecology
Publisher: Ecological Society of America, http://www.esa.org