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Fire and birds in maritime Pacific NorthwestAuthor(s): Mark H. Huff; Nathaniel E. Seavy; John D. Alexander; C. John Ralph
Source: Studies in Avian Biology No. 30: 46-62
Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
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DescriptionResource managers face the challenge of understanding how numerous factors, including fire and fire suppression, influence habitat composition and animal communities. We summarize information on fire effects on major vegetation types and bird/fire relations within the maritime Pacific Northwest, and pose management related questions and research considerations. Information on how fire affects birds is limited for the maritime Pacific Northwest, even though fire is an essential process within natural vegetation communities throughout the region. We describe fire regimes, vegetation succession patterns, bird communities, and fire effects on birds for 12 major vegetation types in the region. Fire regimes and fire effects vary considerably within this region due to its diverse topography and climate. Seven of the types have a low- to moderate-severity fire regime and five have a high-severity fire regime with fire-return intervals that span several centuries. Bird communities and effects of fire are best known from the western hemlock type, which has a high-severity fire regime. The postfire stand-initiation stage in this type supports a reasonably distinct avifauna compared to other successional stages, a phenomenon that has been documented for high-severity fire regimes in other regions. In general, there is a high turnover of species after high-severity fires, with a shift primarily from canopy-dwelling to ground-, shrub-, and snag-dwelling species that mostly are not associated with other successional stages. No studies exist that directly address how bird communities are affected by habitat changes from fire suppression in this region. The most likely bird communities vulnerable to these changes are in low-severity, high-frequency fire regimes that include the Douglas-fir type, drier portions of the white fir type, Oregon-oak woodlands and savannas, native grasslands and sclerophyllous shrublands. In general, prescribed fire is not being used for bird conservation in this region. Where prescribed fire is being used to restore fire as an ecological process or more often for reducing potentially hazardous fuels, bird conservation objectives can be achieved as a secondary benefit. New land management polices that will greatly accelerate fuel reduction activities throughout the Pacific Northwest, including use of prescribed fire, are currently being undertaken with limited scientific information on the ecological consequences for bird communities.
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CitationHuff, Mark H.; Seavy, Nathaniel E.; Alexander, John D.; Ralph, C. John. 2005. Fire and birds in maritime Pacific Northwest. Studies in Avian Biology No. 30: 46-62
Keywordsbirds, fire, fire-suppression, forest management, Pacific Northwest, succession
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