Title: Influence of mountain pine beetle epidemic on winter habitat conditions for Merriam's turkeys: Management implications for current and future condition
Author: Lehman, Chadwick P.; Rumble, Mark A.; Battaglia, Michael A.; Mills, Todd R.; Asherin, Lance A.;
Source: Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium. 11: 79-87.
Publication Series: Paper (invited, offered, keynote)
Understanding response of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest development following a mountain pine beetle (MPB; Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic has important management implications for winter habitat conditions for Merriam’s wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo merriami; hereafter, turkeys). Therefore, we quantified habitat changes over time for turkeys following a widespread MPB epidemic in the Black Hills of South Dakota and evaluated how many years it will take for optimal winter habitat conditions within ponderosa pine forests to recover following such a disturbance. To do so, we used a Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) model developed for Merriam’s turkeys and a Forest Vegetation Simulator (United States Forest Service, Fort Collins, CO, USA). Our HSI indicated winter habitat quality decreased following the MPB outbreak due to conversion of ponderosa pine >40% canopy cover and trees >22.9-cm diameter at breast height (DBH) to smaller diameter (2.54-cm to 22.9-cm DBH) structural stages. Simulations indicated that time for stands to return to optimal winter habitat conditions after the MPB outbreak varied depending on forest structural stage of residual trees and management action. Intensive timber management, particularly precommercial thinning every 20 years, reduced amount of time for forests to develop optimal winter habitat conditions. Importance of intensive management was more pronounced following 75% mortality in stands due to MPB compared to 50% mortality in stands. In some stands, no management versus intensive management may have at least doubled recovery time. We recommend managers use practices such as precommercial thinning every 20 years or uneven-aged management to substantially reduce time to produce optimal winter habitat conditions for turkeys following a MPB outbreak. Additionally, because our study area historically experienced large-scale wildfires and MPB epidemics, we recommend silvicultural practices that ensure a mosaic of stand structural stages across the Black Hills to create and maintain a landscape that is resilient to these disturbances.
Keywords: Black Hills, Dendroctonus ponderosae, forest management, habitat management, Meleagris gallopavo merriami, Merriam’s wild turkey, mountain pine beetle, South Dakota, thinning, winter habitat
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Lehman, Chadwick P.; Rumble, Mark A.; Battaglia, Michael A.; Mills, Todd R.; Asherin, Lance A. 2016. Influence of mountain pine beetle epidemic on winter habitat conditions for Merriam's turkeys: Management implications for current and future condition. Proceedings of the National Wild Turkey Symposium. 11: 79-87.
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