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Effects of thinning and prescribed burning on birds and small mammals

Author(s): Jennifer Woolf
Year Published: 2003

Land management agencies are restoring ponderosa pine forests and reducing fuel loads by thinning followed by prescribed burning. However, little is known about how this combination of treatments will affect local wildlife. In this study, I focus on the following short-term wildlife responses: 1) differences in avian and small-mammal community composition, 2) responses in the foraging patterns of bark-gleaning birds, 3) responses in small mammal abundance. I used three replicate 20-ha thinned/burned sites paired with three 20-ha control sites to examine these responses. I found minor differences in avian species composition. However, these differences involved sensitive species (USFS classification), indicating the need for further research on the quality of this habitat type. I encountered black-backed woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches foraging almost exclusively in thinned/burned sites. Additionally, the selection of large diameter, ponderosa pine trees as foraging substrates overlaps well with the treatment goals. Small mammal species composition differed slightly between treatments, with golden-mantled ground squirrels present in the thinned/burned areas only. Population responses were varied; deer mice were more abundant on thinned/burned sites in both years. Yellow-pine chipmunks showed a delayed response, being more abundant on thinned/burned sites during the second year of the study. Red-backed voles were more abundant on the control sites both years, but were uncommon on all sites. These diverse responses indicate that land managers must consider multi-level wildlife responses, both positive and negative, when implementing thinning followed by prescribed burning.

Citation: Woolf, J.C. 2003. Effects of thinning and prescribed burning on birds and small mammals. Missoula, MT: University of Montana. Thesis. 126 p.
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Birds, Mammals, Habitat Assessment
Ecosystem(s): Montane dry mixed-conifer forest, Ponderosa pine woodland/savanna
Document Type: Dissertation or Thesis
NRFSN number: 11504
FRAMES RCS number: 837
Record updated: Apr 11, 2018