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Individual Highlight

Contemporary Fire Effects on Birds Dependant on Historical Fire Regime

Photo of Site at Coconino National Forest, which is representative of open understories typical of southwestern forests. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Site at Coconino National Forest, which is representative of open understories typical of southwestern forests. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Wildfire strongly shapes landscape structure and animal communities in dry forests of western North America. Forest Service research documents regional differences in avian relationships with wildland fire associated with historical fire regime. Scientists studied regional differences of bird-fire relatationships to inform fire and fuels management.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Latif, QureshSanderlin, Jamie S.
Saab, Victoria A. Block, William M.
Dudley, Jonathan G.  
Research Location : Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Region 1, Region 4, Region 6, Region 3, Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Payette National Forest, Helena National Forest, Apachee-Sitgreaves National Forest, San Juan National Forest, Gila National Forest, Kaibab National Forest, Coconino National Forest
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1003

Summary

Wildfire strongly shapes landscape structure and animal communities in dry forests of western North America. Anthropogenic activities, including logging, grazing, and fire suppression, have substantially altered forest structure and fire regimes (defined by average fire frequency and severity). Forest managers commonly reduce fuels to mitigate severe fire and to promote biodiversity and other ecological attributes. The ecological value of fuels management, however, likely depends on fire regime. Forest Service research documents regional differences in avian relationships with wildland fire associated with historical fire regime. Scientsits studied regional differences of bird-fire relatationships to inform fire and fuels management. They hypothesized differences in bird relationships to fire between southwestern forests historically characterized by more frequent, lower severity wildfires and middle Rocky Mountain forests characterized by less frequent, mixed-severity wildfire. They found differences in species and community occurrence relationships with wildfire. Species in central Idaho were more likely to favor severely burned sites following wildfire, such that species richness tended to increase with burn severity. In contrast, they found the opposite in northern Arizona. Relationships with wildfire were largely consistent with species life histories, suggesting generality of observed patterns. The results suggest avian-fire relationships differ regionally, suggesting best management practices for conserving or restoring avian diversity likely differ with historical fire regime.These patterns suggest broadly implemented fuels management strategies may be less ecologically appropriate in regions where mixed-severity fires were historically more common.Specifically, intensive fuels management is probably less appropriate for conserving or restoring avian diversity in central-west forests where mixed-severity fires and denser fuels were historically more common.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • 12 participating National Forests
  • Amy Markus (Fremont-Winema National Forest)
  • Ana Egnew and Sam Hescock (Payette National Forest)
  • Dave Thomas (Region 4)
  • Joint Fire Sciences
  • Kim Mellen-McLean (Region 6)
  • National Fire Plan
  • Scott Story (State of Montana)
  • Brett Dickson, Northern Arizona University
  • Jay Rotella, Montana State University