International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Positive effects of fire on birds may appear only under narrow combinations of fire severity and time-since-fire

Richard L. Hutto A C and David A. Patterson B

A Division of Biological Sciences, 32 Campus Drive #4824, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

B Department of Mathematical Sciences, 32 Campus Drive #0864, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: hutto@mso.umt.edu

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF15228
Submitted: 22 July 2015  Accepted: 26 May 2016   Published online: 11 July 2016

Abstract

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.

Additional keywords: Black-backed Woodpecker, conifer forest, ecological integrity, fire severity, mixed-severity fire, restoration, salvage logging, wildfire.


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