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Title: Variation in fire regimes of the Rocky Mountains: implications for avian communities and fire management

Author: Saab, Victoria A.; Powell, Hugh D. W.; Kotliar, Natasha B.; Newlon, Karen R.;

Date: 2005

Source: In: Saab, V.; Powell, H., eds. Fire and Avian Ecology in North America. Studies in Avian Biology. 30: 76-96.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Information about avian responses to fire in the U.S. Rocky Mountains is based solely on studies of crown fires. However, fire management in this region is based primarily on studies of low-elevation ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests maintained largely by frequent understory fires. In contrast to both of these trends, most Rocky Mountain forests are subject to mixed severity fire regimes. As a result, our knowledge of bird responses to fire in the region is incomplete and skewed toward ponderosa pine forests. Research in recent large wildfires across the Rocky Mountains indicates that large burns support diverse avifauna. In the absence of controlled studies of bird responses to fire, we compared reproductive success for six cavity-nesting species using results from studies in burned and unburned habitats. Birds in ponderosa pine forests burned by stand replacement fire tended to have higher nest success than individuals of the same species in unburned habitats, but unburned areas are needed to serve species dependent upon live woody vegetation, especially foliage gleaners. Over the last century, fi re suppression, livestock grazing, and logging altered the structure and composition of many low-elevation forests, leading to larger and more severe burns. In higher elevation forests, changes have been less marked. Traditional low-severity prescribed fire is not likely to replicate historical conditions in these mixed or high-severity fire regimes, which include many mixed coniferous forests and all lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and spruce-fir (Picea-Abies) forests. We suggest four research priorities: (1) the effects of fire severity and patch size on species’ responses to fire, (2) the possibility that postfire forests are ephemeral sources for some bird species, (3) the effect of salvage logging prescriptions on bird communities, and (4) experiments that illustrate bird responses to prescribed fire and other forest restoration methods. This research is urgent if we are to develop fire management strategies that reduce fire risk and maintain habitat for avifauna and other wildlife of the Rocky Mountains.

Resumen. La información respecto a las respuestas de las aves al fuego en las Rocallosas de los Estados Unidos, está basado únicamente en estudios de incendios de copa. Sin embargo, el manejo de incendios en esta región esta basada primordialmente en estudios de bosques de pino ponderosa (Pinus ponderosa) de baja elevación, los cuales se mantienen primordialmente con incendios en la primera capa vegetativa. En contraste a ambas tendencias, la mayoría de los bosques de las Rocallosas están sujetas a regimenes mixtos de severidad de incendios. Como resultado, nuestro conocimiento de las respuestas de las aves a los incendios en la región es incompleta y dirigida hacia los bosques de pino ponderosa. Recientes investigaciones de grandes incendios en las Rocallosas, indican que grandes incendios ayudan a la avifauna. En la ausencia de estudios controlados en las respuestas de las aves al fuego, utilizando resultados de estudios en habitats incendiados y sin incendiar, comparamos el éxito reproductivo de seis especies que anidan en cavidades. Aves en bosques de pino ponderosa quemado por incendios de reemplazo, tienden a obtener un mayor éxito de anidación que los individuos de la misma especie en habitats sin quemar, pero se necesitan áreas sin quemar, que sirvan a especies dependientes de vegetación forestal viva, especialmente de follaje espigado. Desde el último siglo, la supresión de incendios, el pastoreo y los aprovechamientos forestales han alterado la estructura y composición de varios bosques de baja elevación, llevándolos a incendios mayores y severos. En bosques con mayor elevación, los cambios han sido menos marcados. Es muy poco probable replicar condiciones históricas en estos regimenes mixtos y de alta severidad con

Keywords: coniferous forests, fire management, fire regimes, passerine birds, U.S. Rocky Mountains, woodpeckers

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Saab, Victoria A.; Powell, Hugh D. W.; Kotliar, Natasha B.; Newlon, Karen R. 2005. Variation in fire regimes of the Rocky Mountains: implications for avian communities and fire management. In: Saab, V.; Powell, H., eds. Fire and Avian Ecology in North America. Studies in Avian Biology. 30: 76-96.

 


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