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Prescribed burning to restore mixed-oak communities in southern Ohio: Effects on breeding-bird populations


Artman, Vanessa L.; Sutherland, Elaine K.; Downhower, Jerry F. 2001. Prescribed burning to restore mixed-oak communities in southern Ohio: Effects on breeding-bird populations. Conservation Biology. 15(5): 1423-1434.

Fire is being experimentally reintroduced to the forests of southern Ohio to determine its effectiveness in restoring and maintaining mixed-oak (Quercus spp.) forest communities. We studied the effects of repeated burning (1-4 years of annual burning) and recovery (1 year after burning) on the breeding bird community. Burning resulted in incremental but temporary reductions in the availability of leaf litter, shrubs, and saplings, but it did not affect trees, snags, or understory vegetation cover. Of 30 bird species monitored, 4 were affected negatively and 2 were affected positively by burning. Population densities of Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapillus), Worm-eating Warblers (Helmitheros vermivorus), and Hooded Warblers (Wilsonia citrina) declined incrementally in response to repeated burning and did not recover within 1 year after burning, suggesting a lag time in response to the changes in habitat conditions. Densities of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) fluctuated among years in the control units, but remained low in the burned units. Densities of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) and Eastern Wood-Pewees (Contopus virens) increased in response to burning, but these increases were apparent only after several years of repeated burning. In general, burning resulted in short-term reductions in the suitability of habitat for ground- and low-shrub-nesting birds, but it improved habitat for ground- and aerial-foraging birds. Overall, there were no changes in the composition of the breeding-bird community. Total breeding bird population levels were also unaffected by burning. Our results suggest that prescribed burning applied on a long-term basis or across large spatial scales is likely to have adverse effects on ground- and low-shrub-nesting bird species, but other changes in the composition of the breeding-bird community are likely to be minimal as long as the closed-canopy forest structure is maintained within the context of prescribed burning.

Keywords: prescribed burning, fire, restoration, mixed-oak, Quercus, breeding birds


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Title: RMRS Other Publications: Prescribed burning to restore mixed-oak communities in southern Ohio: Effects on breeding-bird populations
Electronic Publish Date: June 28, 2012
Last Update:
June 28, 2012

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