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Songbird response to experimental retention harvesting in red pine (Pinus resinosa) forests

Formally Refereed
Authors: Ryan C. Atwell, Lisa A. Schulte, Brian J. Palik
Year: 2008
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 255(10): 3621-3631.


Traditional harvesting practices frequently result in simplification of the structure and composition within managed forest stands in comparison to their natural counterparts. In particular, loss of heterogeneity within stands may pose a problem for maintaining biodiversity in perpetuity. In this study, we survey breeding bird diversity and abundance in response to different spatial harvesting patterns in mature red pine forests located on the Chippewa National Forest of northern Minnesota, USA. Treatments are designed to increase structural complexity over time and include three overstory manipulations (dispersed retention, aggregate retention with small gaps, and aggregate retention with large gaps), one understory manipulation (brush removal), and controls (no harvesting, and/or no brush removal). In 2003, the first breeding season following the harvest, we found little difference in bird community composition between control and treatment stands. In 2005, the third breeding season following harvest, avian abundance, richness, and diversity were all greater within treatments. Species associated with edge, shrub, and early successional habitats generally show positive response to treatments (e.g. Chestnut-sided Warbler [Dendroica pensylvanica], Mourning Warbler [Oporornis philadelphia], Chipping Sparrow [Spizella passerine]), as do some species associated with mature forest (e.g., Pine Warbler [Dendroica pinus], Rose-breasted Grosbeak [Pheucticus ludovicianus]). Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) and Black-throated Green Warblers (Dendroica virens) were more abundant in control stands. There are, as of yet, no discernable differences in avian community composition among the three overstory treatments or between the single understory treatment and the understory control, but differences are expected as the treatments diversify due to understory development. While overstory retention harvests provide habitat for a diverse and abundant bird community, the temporal divergence in avian community composition that we observed between treatment and control stands reveals the importance of uncut, mature red pine forest as a component of a biodiverse landscape.


Avian ecology, Biodiversity, Minnesota, Partial overstory retention, Restoration, Structural complexity, Timber harvesting


Atwell, Ryan C.; Schulte, Lisa A.; Palik, Brian J. 2008. Songbird response to experimental retention harvesting in red pine (Pinus resinosa) forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 255(10): 3621-3631.