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Individual Highlight

FIRE-BIRD: A GIS Tool for Applying Habitat Suitability Models to Inform Land Management Planning

Photo of Disturbed forests, such as those that recently experienced wildfire, are the preferred habitat for a number of woodpecker species. These dead and dying trees also have economic value when salvage logged.

Disturbed forests, such as those that recently experienced wildfire, are the preferred habitat for a number of woodpecker species. These dead and dying trees also have economic value when salvage logged. Snapshot : To conserve and promote biological diversity, land managers must identify suitable habitat for species of conservation concern. Managers can then restrict potentially detrimental activities such as salvage logging to areas of lower habitat suitability, and target beneficial activities, such as restoration, where habitat suitability is higher. USDA Forest Service scientists and their partners developed FIRE-BIRD, an ArcGIS tool, to map habitat suitability for disturbance-associated woodpeckers of conservation concern to inform postfire management and restoration treatments in dry mixed-conifer forests. 

Principal Investigators(s) :
Saab, Victoria A. Haas, Jessica R.
Dudley, Jonathan G.  
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2019
Highlight ID : 1537

Summary

Western North America is occupied by several woodpecker species strongly associated with recently disturbed forests, including post-wildfire and post-beetle outbreaks. These types of landscapes are favored habitat because the dead and dying trees provide nesting and foraging substrates. When managing these landscapes, managers must balance providing habitat for woodpecker species of conservation concern with conducting salvage logging operations that generate economic revenue for local communities. Increases in size and severity of wildfire and insect outbreaks are expected to continue with climate change, allowing more opportunities for post-disturbance salvage logging and forest restoration activities. USDA Forest Service scientists and partners developed FIRE-BIRD, a tool to help managers make the best decisions for maintaining habitat of key wildlife species, while still allowing economic benefits to local communities. Habitat suitability models can inform forest management for wildlife species of conservation concern. Models quantify relationships between known species locations and environmental attributes, which are used to identify areas most likely to support species of concern. Managers can then limit negative human impacts in areas of high suitability or conduct habitat improvements in areas of marginal suitability. They developed FIRE-BIRD, an ArcGIS toolbox, to map habitat suitability for disturbance-associated woodpeckers of conservation concern to help inform locations for management activities in predominantly burned forests of the Inland Northwest and Northern Sierras. The suite of species currently included (black-backed [Picoides arcticus], white-headed [Dryobates albolvartus], Lewis's [Melanerpes lewis], and hairy [D. villosus] woodpeckers) makes the tool best suited for postfire management and restoration treatments in dry mixed-conifer forests. Each woodpecker species requires different habitat characteristics for population persistence in a post-wildfire landscape, and these habitat characteristics should be considered when managers are developing salvage logging and restoration projects. Studies have found that in the 10-12 years following salvage logging that selected harvest levels provided habitat for multiple woodpecker species.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Boise National Forest
  • Fremont-Winema National Forest
  • Gallatin National Forest
  • Helena National Forest
  • Malheur National Forest
  • Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
  • Pacific Northwest Research Station
  • Payette National Forest
  • Region 6
  • Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Blue Mountains Forest Partners
  • Western Environmental Law Center