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Individual Highlight

The importance of forest management to birds affected by climate change

Photo of Prairie Warbler. Prairie Warbler. Snapshot : In their ongoing efforts to better understand how bird species will respond to changes in the forest from climate change, Forest Service scientists find that forest management can play an important role in protecting forest bird populations.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Thompson, Frank R. 
Research Location : Central Hardwood Forest Region
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1249


One of the most significant questions facing biologists and land managers is how will climate change impact wildlife? Because forests are important habitats for many species, a critical aspect of the answer depends on how forest management and climate change will interact to affect forests in the future. Forest Service scientists and their partners recently combined population modeling and forest landscape projections to predict responses of two declining songbird species in the Central Hardwoods region of the U.S. to forest management and climate change over the next century. Specifically, they used these models to predict wood thrush and prairie warbler population dynamics and distribution throughout the region through the year 2100 under various scenarios. The results showed how climate change, natural forest succession, and forest management interacted to change forest habitats and ultimately drive population changes in the two bird species. The scientists found that under a business-as-usual scenario, forest management practices failed to provide enough early-successional and open-canopy habitat, and prairie warbler populations continued to decline. When the effects of climate change on forests were included in the projections along with greater efforts to restore woodlands, the population increased at a faster rate than under either factor alone. These research results highlight the important role that forest management and climate change will play in the next century and the importance of considering both in conservation planning.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of Missouri, Northeast Climate Science Center Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission University of Montana

Program Areas