Estimates of species’ vital rates and an understanding of the factors affecting those parameters over time and space can provide crucial information for management and conservation. We used mark–recapture, reproductive output, and territory occupancy data collected during 1985–2013 to evaluate population processes of Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) in 11 study areas in Washington, Oregon, and northern California, USA. We estimated apparent survival, fecundity, recruitment, rate of population change, and local extinction and colonization rates, and investigated relationships between these parameters and the amount of suitable habitat, local and regional variation in meteorological conditions, and competition with Barred Owls (Strix varia). Data were analyzed for each area separately and in a meta-analysis of all areas combined, following a strict protocol for data collection, preparation, and analysis. We used mixed effects linear models for analyses of fecundity, Cormack-Jolly-Seber open population models for analyses of apparent annual survival (Φ), and a reparameterization of the Jolly-Seber capture–recapture model (i.e. reverse Jolly-Seber; RJS) to estimate annual rates of population change (λRJS) and recruitment. We also modeled territory occupancy dynamics of Northern Spotted Owls and Barred Owls in each study area using 2-species occupancy models. Estimated mean annual rates of population change (λ) suggested that Spotted Owl populations declined from 1.2% to 8.4% per year depending on the study area. The weighted mean estimate of λ for all study areas was 0.962 (± 0.019 SE; 95% CI: 0.925–0.999), indicating an estimated range-wide decline of 3.8% per year from 1985 to 2013.
Poor condition of many streams and concerns about future droughts in the arid and semi-arid western USA have motivated novel restoration strategies aimed at accelerating recovery and increasing water resources. Translocation of beavers into formerly occupied habitats, restoration activities encouraging beaver recolonization, and instream structures mimicking the effects of beaver dams are restoration alternatives that have recently gained popularity because of their potential socioeconomic and ecological benefits. However, beaver dams and dam-like structures also harbor a history of social conflict. Hence, we identified a need to assess the use of beaver-related restoration projects in western rangelands to increase awareness and accountability, and identify gaps in scientific knowledge. We inventoried 97 projects implemented by 32 organizations, most in the last 10 years. We found that beaver-related stream restoration projects undertaken mostly involved the relocation of nuisance beavers. The most common goal was to store water, either with beaver dams or artificial structures. Beavers were often moved without regard to genetics, disease, or potential conflicts with nearby landowners. Few projects included post implementation monitoring or planned for longer term issues, such as what happens when beavers abandon a site or when beaver dams or structures breach. Human dimensions were rarely considered and water rights and other issues were mostly unresolved or addressed through ad-hoc agreements. We conclude that the practice and implementation of beaver-related restoration has outpaced research on its efficacy and best practices. Further scientific research is necessary, especially research that informs the establishment of clear guidelines for best practices.
Quantifying prey taken by Pacific Marten (Martes americana caurina) helps to understand local habitat requirements of the species. We collected 250 scat samples associated with at least 53 marten in a salvage-logged Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)-Bitterbrush shrub (Purshia tridentata) forest in south-central Oregon. The frequency of occurrence of food items included 98.0% mammals, 36.0% arthropods, 23.2% birds, 9.2% plants, 2.0% hares and rabbits, and 0.8% reptiles. Among mammals, 72.4% were vole-sized and 47.2% squirrel-sized. Chipmunks (Neotamias spp., 27.6%) and ground squirrels (Spermophilus spp., 28.0%) had the highest occurrence by size group, respectively. Frequency varied little between summer and winter. Male marten preyed on a greater proportion of mice (Peromyscus spp.) than females, especially in summer, and in winter females preyed on a greater proportion of voles (Microtus spp.) than did males. Female marten also preyed on a greater proportion of birds in winter than did males, whereas males had a greater proportion in summer. We compare our findings with a concurrent study in northeastern Oregon and discuss the importance of slash piles from the indirect evidence in the frequently logged forest type to help inform habitat management of the species and prey.
Young stands are commonly assumed to require centuries to develop into late-successional forest habitat. This viewpoint reflects the fact that young stands often lack many of the structural features that define late-successional habitat, and that these features derive from complex stand dynamics that are difficult to mimic with forest management. Variable density thinning (VDT) is a silvicultural strategy designed to accelerate development of late-successional habitat by applying a variety of harvest intensities within a stand. Previous reports indicate that VDT has had initial success increasing growth and regeneration. However, few studies have examined the effects of VDT at longer time scales. Here, we report 14-year growth response of residual trees in the thinned and unthinned VDT sub-treatments in five young mixed-conifer stands located on the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington. Our objectives were to investigate whether thinning has accelerated the recruitment of large trees (> 80 cm dbh), recruitment of shade-tolerant species into the mid-story (40–65 cm), or development of longer crowns relative to the unthinned sub-treatment. In addition, we investigated whether the basal area distribution in the combined VDT sub-treatments has become more diverse compared to the unthinned sub-treatment. The response to thinning varied consistently across the diameter size class gradient. Thinning was ineffective at stimulating growth of upper canopy trees (65–80 cm). In this size class neither diameter growth nor crown length increased significantly compared to trees in unthinned patches. Further, only one stand has reached the restoration benchmark for large tree density. In contrast, thinning significantly increased diameter growth and crown length among trees in the mid-story (40–65 cm) and shade-tolerant species in the future mid-story (20–40 cm). Higher rates of recruitment into the mid-story were also observed from shade tolerant species growing in the thinned (34%) compared to unthinned (19%) patches, with two stands reaching the restoration benchmark for shade-tolerant mid-story density. Clear trends in basal area diversity and evenness have yet to develop in either the combined or unthinned sub-treatments. Collectively, our results demonstrate that VDT has partially accomplished its objectives. Although thinning has not yet accelerated recruitment of large trees, it has accelerated the advancement of shade-tolerant species into the mid-story and the development of deeper crowns among trees in smaller size classes. In addition, differing rates of diameter growth among smaller diameter trees in the various VDT sub-treatments suggest that increases in structural diversity may be developing more quickly than in untreated stands.