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Trends in carnivore and ungulate fire ecology research in North American conifer forests

Author(s): Logan A. Volkmann, Jenna Hutchen, Karen E. Hodges
Year Published: 2020

Shifting fire regimes are substantially changing North American forests. It is thus critical to understand how wildfires affect forest wildlife, especially for species managed for harvest and for species at risk of extinction. In particular, many populations of carnivores and ungulates are actively managed, so being able to anticipate their responses to future fires, or as burned forests regenerate, would be valuable for management and conservation. We examine how well the current literature addresses these important needs. We reviewed 131 papers published from 1970 to 2019 that reported carnivore and ungulate responses to fires in North American conifer forests. We evaluated the study designs, fire attributes, species studied, and response variables measured. This literature contains considerable taxonomic bias, inconsistent reporting of fire and landscape characteristics, and a mismatch between research objectives and management needs. Of the 18 carnivore species studied post-fire, just three (grizzly bears Ursus arctos, Canada lynx Lynx canadensis, and American marten Martes americana) comprised nearly half of the literature (47.8%). Few papers reported the spatial extents of fires being studied (32.6% for carnivores and 38.2% for ungulates). Most studies focused on recent burns (<15 years post-fire) and monitored post-fire responses for fewer than five years. Few papers measured true population responses post-fire (6.7% for carnivores and 12.4% for ungulates); the majority of papers focused on animal movements or habitat use (presence/absence or relative activity) rather than estimates of survival, recruitment, or population size. Our review also indicates that studying fires with a more diverse array of spatial extents, ages, and severities would be useful for most species.

Citation: Volkmann, Logan A.; Hutchen, Jenna; Hodges, Karen E. 2020. Trends in carnivore and ungulate fire ecology research in North American conifer forests. Forest Ecology and Management 458:117691. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2019.117691
Topic(s): Fire Effects, Ecological - Second Order, Wildlife, Fire & Wildlife, Mammals
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 20840
FRAMES RCS number: 60456
Record updated: Mar 12, 2020