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Spotted owl foraging patterns following fuels treatments, Sierra Nevada, CaliforniaAuthor(s): Claire V Gallagher; John J. Keane; Paula A. Shaklee; H. Anu Kramer; Ross Gerrard
Source: The Journal of Wildlife Management. 83(2): 487-501
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
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DescriptionWestern dry conifer forests continue to experience increased severe, stand‐replacing wildfire that is outside of historical precedent. Fuels treatments, landscape‐scale modifications of forest fuels and structure, are likely to remain a management tool to modify fire behavior and restore ecological resilience. The impacts of fuels treatments to listed species such as spotted owls (Strix occidentalis) remain uncertain and are contested because of limited available information. To evaluate spotted owl foraging habitat selection in a landscape recently modified by forest fuels‐reduction treatments, we radio‐marked and tracked 10 California spotted owls (S. o. occidentalis) for 2 years immediately following fuels treatment installation in the northern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. We categorized fuels treatments into 3 types: mechanical thin, installed within the study area as landscape‐scale fire breaks characterized by even tree spacing, open understory, and low canopy cover, or group selections; understory thin, a hand‐removal of small trees and shrubs; and understory thin followed by underburn, a controlled surface‐fuel burn that left the overstory intact. We described post‐treatment habitat using forest structural metrics derived from a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) dataset that was collected 1 year after fuels treatments were completed. We collected 436 spotted owl foraging locations during 2 breeding seasons and evaluated breeding season home range size and composition using a resource selection function. We assessed possible contributors to owl foraging patterns by comparing a priori hypotheses in an information‐theoretic approach and using randomly generated points that estimated available habitat. Spotted owl breeding season home ranges contained fuels treatments in proportion to their availability on the landscape and averaged 17.1% treated area. Within the home range, owl foraging locations in the post‐treatment landscape were best predicted by lower proportions of gaps than anticipated at random, steeper slopes, and minimized distance from the owl's site center. Our results suggest that moderate to high proportions of gaps, typically a feature of forest fuels reduction and restoration treatments, may reduce the probability of spotted owl foraging.
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CitationGallagher, Claire V.; Keane, John J.; Shaklee, Paula A.; Kramer, H. Anu; Gerrard, Ross. 2018. Spotted owl foraging patterns following fuels treatments, Sierra Nevada, California. The Journal of Wildlife Management. 83(2): 487-501. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21586.
KeywordsCalifornia spotted owl, foraging, forest restoration, fuels management, fuels treatment, habitat use, home range, LiDAR, Sierra Nevada, Strix occidentalis
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