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Individual Highlight

Riparian zone width, pine plantation age, and status of conservation priority birds

Photo of Snapshot : Selecting 16 different bird species of conservation importance in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, we used models to look at the likelihood of each species occupying riparian zones of different widths. New to these types of studies, we also related occupancy to both riparian zone width and the age of surrounding pine plantation forests. We found diverse responses among species to width of buffers and age classes of adjacent plantations; some species benefited from wide buffers, while others benefitted from narrow buffers. Most species did not appear affected by structure of surrounding plantations.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Perry, Roger W. 
Research Location : Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2011
Highlight ID : 425


Riparian buffers, areas or zones of mature forest, are often retained along streams in managed forest landscapes... Managers often need to balance the costs of the reduced timber production associated with larger buffer zones with the ecological benefits of leaving wider buffers for interior forest birds. However, the interaction of buffer width and age of surrounding pine plantations on habitat use by birds is not well understood. Scientists with the Southern Research Station and cooperators modeled probability of occupancy for 16 bird species of regional conservation importance in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas in riparian buffers of varying width surrounded by pine plantations in three different age classes. Occupancy models included a positive association with buffer width for nine bird species associated with mature forests, but most species traditionally associated with mature forests were common in narrow riparian buffers regardless of width. Models for three early successional species-those usually occupying young, relatively open forests--indicated that they were less likely to occupy a wider buffer area... Researchers found diverse responses among species to width of riparian buffers in relation to the age of adjacent plantations; some species benefitted from wide riparian buffers, while others benefitted from narrow buffers. Thus, the optimal width of riparian buffers for bird species conservation depends on which species the manager is most interested in conserving. . This study provides important cost and benefit information to forest industry and federal agencies actively managing lands for both timber production and wildlife diversity.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Weyerhaeuser Company, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, University of Arkansas at Monticello

Program Areas