Ecological - Second Order
Fire & Wildlife
The bird species in western North America that are most restricted to, and therefore most dependent on, severely burned conifer forests during the first years following a fire event depend heavily on the abundant standing snags for perch sites, nest sites, and food resources. Thus, it is critical to develop and apply appropriate snag-management guidelines to implement postfire timber harvest operations in the same locations. Unfortunately, existing guidelines designed for green-tree forests cannot be applied to postfire salvage sales because the snag needs of snag-dependent species in burned forests are not at all similar to the snag needs of snag-dependent species in green-tree forests. Birds in burned forests have very different snag-retention needs from those cavity-nesting bird species that have served as the focus for the development of existing snag-management guidelines. Specifically, many postfire specialists use standing dead trees not only for nesting purposes but for feeding purposes as well. Woodpeckers, in particular, specialize on wood-boring beetle larvae that are superabundant in fire-killed trees for several years following severe fire. Species such as the Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) are nearly restricted in their habitat distribution to severely burned forests. Moreover, existing postfire salvage-logging studies reveal that most postfire specialist species are completely absent from burned forests that have been (even partially) salvage logged. I call for the long-overdue development and use of more meaningful snag-retention guidelines for postfire specialists, and I note that the biology of the most fire-dependent bird species suggests that even a cursory attempt to meet their snag needs would preclude postfire salvage logging in those severely burned conifer forests wherein the maintenance of biological diversity is deemed important.