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“Guiding Woodpeckers in Forest Management After a Fire”


Black woodpecker in its nest in a burning tree. Credit: Jeremy Roberts, www.ConservationMedia.com

What’s good for black-backed woodpeckers is good for restoring California’s burning forests. The unique relationship between birds and fire supports the latest research into improving post-fire management. Study published in environmental applications Describes a new tool that identifies how fires factor into forest management decisions and turns science into action to conserve wildlife.

“Wildfire is like a 10,000-piece puzzle, and climate change is rearranging the pieces,” said lead author Andrew Stillman of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Massive, wild fires are becoming the new norm in California due to drought, longer fire seasons, and denser forests. But birds do really well in landscapes where the fires are varied—fires burn patches that are uneven in height, medium, and intensity.” low.”

Black-backed woodpeckers love the variety of Bernodes. They prefer to build their nest cavities in freshly burned areas after a very serious fire. But they also like to be near a low-density burn area where their young can hide from predators among live trees that still provide cover. The species’ unique habitat associations mean they are sensitive to deforestation after a fire, and forest managers use information on woodpeckers to guide their post-fire planning.

Woodpeckers direct post-fire forest management

Regrowth among burnt trees in the Sierra Nevada. Credit: Jane Hall.

After a wildfire, forest managers face difficult decisions about how best to protect and restore burned areas while balancing the needs of people and wildlife. Sometimes there is no time to survey wildlife in burned areas, which can make it difficult to choose where to invest in wildlife conservation. To address this need, researchers developed an online tool to predict the likely abundance of black-backed woodpeckers after a fire. Incorporating new information about the value of biodiversity has made the underlying models more accurate.

“The tool we created uses data from 11 years of surveys to predict where woodpeckers will be found in high numbers using available data within months after a fire has occurred,” Stillman said. “Birds move in to take advantage of the spurt of beetle larvae in burning trees.”

The online tool uses many layers of information, starting with a satellite-derived layer of burn severity that forest managers can upload. This layer is then used to assess the diversity of peridomes based on the amount of forest canopy loss. Other datasets on woodpecker home ranges, vegetation type, latitude, longitude, elevation, years since a fire, and more have been incorporated as well.

  • Woodpeckers direct post-fire forest management

    What the biodiversity looks like: A mosaic of charred, partially burned, and lifeless trees after a wildfire in Montana. Credit: Jeremy Roberts, www.ConservationMedia.com

  • Woodpeckers direct post-fire forest management

    Northern California’s Sierra Nevada comes back to life after a wildfire. Credit: Jane Hall.

The new tool will save time and effort after a wildfire and is intended for forest managers, conservationists and private landowners. It is hosted by the Bird Collections Institute in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture Forestry. Although currently prepared in California, the methods hold promise for other regions and species.

“The Burning Forest is a unique, incredible, and complex ecosystem bursting with new life,” Stillman said. “At first you think everything is dead. The earth is ashes. The trees are black. But when you start to wander, you find the place is alive. It’s not dead, it’s just changed.”

more information:
Andrew N. environmental applications (2023). doi: 10.1002/eap.2853

Provided by Cornell University

the quote: Woodpecker directs post-fire forest management (2023, April 26) Retrieved April 26, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-woodpecker-post-fire-forest.html

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