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Richard L. Hutto, David A. Patterson
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects
Ecological - Second Order
Fire & Wildlife
Habitat Assessment
Prescribed Fire-use treatments
Montane dry mixed-conifer forest

NRFSN number: 14589
FRAMES RCS number: 22791
Record updated:

We conducted bird surveys in 10 of the first 11 years following a mixed-severity fire in a dry, low-elevation mixed-conifer forest in western Montana, United States. By defining fire in terms of fire severity and time-since-fire, and then comparing detection rates for species inside 15 combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire, with their rates of detection in unburned (but otherwise similar) forest outside the burn perimeter, we were able to assess more nuanced effects of fire on 50 bird species. A majority of species (60%) was detected significantly more frequently inside than outside the burn. It is likely that the beneficial effects of fire for some species can be detected only under relatively narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire. Because most species responded positively and uniquely to some combination of fire severity and time-since-fire, these results carry important management implications. Specifically, the variety of burned-forest conditions required by fire-dependent bird species cannot be created through the application of relatively uniform low-severity prescribed fires, through land management practices that serve to reduce fire severity or through post-fire salvage logging, which removes the dead trees required by most disturbance-dependent bird species.


Hutto, R.L.; Patterson, D.A. 2016. Positive effects of fire on birds may appear only under narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire. International Journal of Wildland Fire 25(10):1074-1085.

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