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Title: Effects of fuel reduction on birds in pitch pine–scrub oak barrens of the United States

Author: King, David I.; Schlossberg, Scott; Brooks, Robert T.; Akresh, Michael E.;

Date: 2011

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 261(1): 10-18.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Fire-dependent ecosystems include some of the most threatened ecosystems in the world, and where fuels are allowed to accumulate, they can present significant threats to human life and property. Fuel reduction activities can be effective in reducing the risk of wildfire, but these practices need to be evaluated relative to their effect on biodiversity. We surveyed birds in an inland pitch pine–scrub oak barren, a fire-dependent plant community, in which fuel reduction had been carried out via thinning of canopy trees to reduce the risk of running crown fires. We hypothesized that thinning pitch pine forest would negatively affect the abundance of mature forest birds and positively affect the abundance of scrub–shrub birds. Our results confirmed these expectations: several mature forest bird species were less abundant in thinned pitch pine than unthinned pitch pine, although most of these species were also present in mixed deciduous forest, and therefore regionally well represented. In contrast, another group of bird species was scarce or absent from unthinned pitch pine and mixed deciduous forest, but present in thinned sites and scrub oak stands. These were scrub–shrub species that do not nest in mixed deciduous or pitch pine forest but depend on shrubland or savannah habitats that cover ∼3% of the region. We conclude that fuel reduction by thinning canopy trees at this site provides habitat for high-priority scrub–shrub bird species at the cost of modest reductions in numbers of forest birds whose regional aggregate population is large.

Keywords: Avian, Fire, Forest, Risk, Shrub, Thinning

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King, David I.; Schlossberg, Scott; Brooks, Robert T.; Akresh, Michael E. 2011. Effects of fuel reduction on birds in pitch pine–scrub oak barrens of the United States. Forest Ecology and Management. 261(1): 10-18.


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