Threshold responses of songbirds to long-term timber management on an active industrial forest

Forest Ecology and Management
By: , and 



Forest managers often seek to balance economic benefits from timber harvesting with maintenance of habitat for wildlife, ecosystem function, and human uses. Most research on the relationship between avian abundance and active timber management has been short-term, lasting one to two years, creating the need to investigate long-term avian responses and to identify harvest thresholds when a small change in habitat results in a disproportionate response in relative abundance and nest success. Our objectives were to identify trends in relative abundance and nest success and to identify landscape-scale disturbance thresholds for avian species and habitat guilds in response to a variety of harvest treatments (clear-cuts, heavy and light partial harvests) over 14 years. We conducted point counts and monitored nests at an industrial forest in the central Appalachians of West Virginia during 1996–1998, 2001–2003, and 2007–2009. Early successional species increased in relative abundance across all three time periods, whereas interior-edge and forest-interior guilds peaked in relative abundance mid-study after which the forest-interior guild declined. Of 41 species with >10 detections, four (10%) declined significantly, 13 (32%) increased significantly (only three species among all periods), and 9 (22%) peaked in abundance mid-study (over the entire study period, four species had no significant change in abundance, four declined, and one increased). Based on piecewise linear models, forest-interior and interior-edge guilds’ relative abundance harvest thresholds were 28% total harvests (all harvests combined), 10% clear-cut harvests, and 18% light partial harvests, after which abundances declined. Harvest thresholds for the early successional guild were 42% total harvests, 11% clear-cut harvest, and 10% light partial harvests, and relative abundances increased after surpassing thresholds albeit at a reduced rate of increase after the clear-cut threshold. Threshold confidence intervals for individual species overlapped their guild threshold intervals 91% of the time. Even though relative abundance of most species (80%) did not decline as the area affected by timber management increased, implementing management at or below our approximate forest-interior and interior-edge harvest thresholds would reduce the number of declining species by half, maintain higher relative abundances of four species with a net decline in abundance but that peaked in abundance mid-study, and maintain higher relative abundances of ten additional species. In contrast, this management strategy also would prevent the increase in relative abundance of seven species and limit the increase in abundance of three species that increased throughout the study.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Threshold responses of songbirds to long-term timber management on an active industrial forest
Series title Forest Ecology and Management
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2011.04.011
Volume 262
Issue 3
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 12 p.
First page 449
Last page 460
Country United States
State West Virginia
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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