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Developing effective forest management for northern goshawks and their food webs

Status: 
Action
Dates: 
January, 1991

Management Context

Northern goshawk is a sensitive species that lives in frequent-fire forests.
Northern goshawk is a sensitive species that lives in frequent-fire forests.
Mid-elevation forests throughout the western United States have changed through tree harvests, grazing, and fire suppression. Fire suppression resulted in overstocking of trees and ground fuels, which has increased catastrophic fires, reduced overall primary forest productivity (forest health), and reduced the resilience of forests to global change.

Forest restoration is needed to protect communities, to improve forest health, and to restore the biodiversity native to these forests. Thus, restoration should increase the biodiversity in the food webs of species such as the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), a sensitive species in most of our national forests. While abundance and diversity of prey is a principle factor limiting their viability, there is uncertainty on how to provide the old forest habitats of this apex predator.

Managers increasingly understand the level of compatibility between research on goshawk habitat, ecological restoration, sustainability, and restoration of fire-adapted ecosystems. However, we need to improve our understanding of how to disperse and sustain habitats of plants and animals in the goshawk food web in large landscapes. Such understanding should result in more sustainable fire-adapted ecosystems while protecting communities, providing firefighters a safer suppression environment, and protecting the viability of threatened and sensitive species.

Approach

Richard Reynolds measuring beak size of a northern goshawk.
Richard Reynolds measuring beak size of a northern goshawk.
Forest composition and structure strongly influence goshawk habitat selection and hunting behavior, prey abundance, and goshawk reproduction and survival. Previous research of goshawk demographics and prey dynamics offers extraordinary opportunities to combine long-term (21 yrs) in-situ observations with advanced remote sensing methods to characterize forest habitats.

Researchers are identifying critical elements of goshawk habitat by comparing the frequency of occupancy, reproduction, and survival of territorial goshawks with the habitats and prey species compositions within their territories. Ongoing investigations are also exploring the effects of landscape-level habitat mixes on prey abundance and diversity within the sample of goshawk territories.

Expected Outcomes

• Increased understanding of the critical compositional and structural elements of goshawk habitat.

• Development and improvement of management recommendations for restoring and sustaining goshawk habitats.

• Improved understanding of ecological responses of goshawks and their prey to forest restoration.

Publications

Bayard de Volo, Shelley ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Sonsthagen, Sarah A. ; Talbot, Sandra L. ; Antolin, Michael F. , 2013
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Sanchez Meador, Andrew J. ; Youtz, James A. ; Nicolet, Tessa ; Matonis, Megan S. ; Jackson, Patrick L. ; DeLorenzo, Donald G. ; Graves, Andrew D. , 2013
Kennedy, Patricia L. ; Cartron, Jean-Luc E. , 2010
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Graham, Russell T. ; Boyce, Douglas A. Jr. , 2008
Salafsky, Susan ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Noon, Barry R. ; Wiens, John A. , 2007
Boyce, Douglas A. Jr. ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Graham, Russell T. , 2006
Wiens, J. David ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Noon, Barry R. , 2006
Wiens, J. David ; Reynolds, Richard T. , 2005
Salafsky, Susan ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Noon, Barry R. , 2005
de Volo, Shelley Bayard ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Topinka, J. Rick ; May, Bernie ; Antolin, Michael F. , 2005
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Wiens, J. David ; Joy, Suzanne M. ; Salafsky, Susan , 2005
Joy, Suzanne M. ; Reynolds, Richard T. ; Leslie, Douglas G. , 1994
Reynolds, Richard T. ; Graham, Russell T. ; Reiser, M. Hildegard , 1992


Principal Investigators:
Co-Investigators:
Shelley Bayard - Rocky Mountain Research Station (previously)