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A feather in their cap: Using citizen monitoring to track post-wildfire bird communities

Posted date: September 04, 2018
Publication Year: 
Document type: Other Documents


The Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona, which consist of separate mountain ranges within a desert matrix, are a unique biodiversity hotspot hosting many neotropical bird species that cannot be seen anywhere else in the United States Residents of this region depend on ecotourism for their livelihood and there is an above-average concentration of citizens skilled at identifying birds by sight and sound. After the Horseshoe Two wildfire in 2011 burned a large portion of the Chiricahua range, the local residents approached RMRS with concerns about effects on the bird populations. RMRS researchers initiated a partnership with a local group, the Friends of Cave Creek Canyon, to assess the feasibility of using a citizen-monitoring program to collect bird population data. By comparing citizen-collected data with that collected by a professional crew, they found that citizen science partnerships can be used for inexpensive and statistically rigorous monitoring, with the added benefit of fostering greater local public involvement in science and conservation. The data collected showed an increase in the overall diversity of bird species found across the landscape. Woodpeckers and flycatchers often become more abundant right after a fire due to the beetle colonization of dead trees. Preliminary results of this study indicate that the buff-breasted flycatcher, a species of concern in the region, has expanded its range to include the recently burned landscapes.

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