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Thirty Years of Post-fire Succession in a Southern Boreal Forest Bird Community
- Birds and vegetation were surveyed in a 9 ha plot in spring 1976 in a 73 y-old jack pine (Pinus banksiana) - black spruce (Picea mariana) forest in northeastern Minnesota. A 1368 ha wildfire burned across the area that autumn. The plot was resurveyed in 1977 and periodically through 2006. Before the fire, birds with the highest importance values were Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca), Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) and Bay-breasted Warbler (D. castanea). Within 7 y following the fire, canopy tree cover decreased to near zero as fire-damaged trees died. Afterwards, the canopy began increasing, reaching 53% cover by 30 y. Shrub cover, 8% before the fire, peaked at over 70% two decades after fire, primarily as a result of dense jack pine and black spruce regeneration, and then decreased to 58% 30 y after fire. The total number of bird species using the area doubled the first year following the fire while the number of bird species with discernable territories decreased 40%. Thereafter, territorial species began increasing and 30 y after the fire the number exceeded the pre-fire richness by 60%. Overall, density of bird territories decreased nearly three-fold the first 3 y after the fire, but by year 30, was over 56% greater than in the pre-burn mature pine forest. Loss of canopy was related to a reduction in warbler and vireo diversity while increases in woody debris and near-ground vegetation were related to an increase in ground-brush foragers such as White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina). Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) populations increased briefly as trees died, and for five years following fire there was an increase in woodpeckers and secondary cavity nesting species. At 7 to 10 y after fire, White-throated Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler (Dendroica magnolia), Chestnut-sided Warbler (D. pensylvanica), Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla) and Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia) dominated. White-throated Sparrow continued to be the most important bird species through the first two decades, followed by Magnolia Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo. Thirty years after fire, the dominant birds were Nashville Warbler and Ovenbird, followed distantly by Veery (Catharus fuscescens) Swainson's Thrush (Catharus ustulatus), Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) and Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia). Overall, bird species using the area after 30 y remained over 70% higher than in the mature forest before the fire.
Haney, Alan , Apfelbaum, Steven , Burris, John M.
wild birds , species diversity , community ecology , fires , vegetation cover , forest canopy , vegetation structure , boreal forests , forest succession , coniferous forests , wildlife habitats , habitat preferences , Minnesota , Superior National Forest
- Includes references
- American midland naturalist 2008 Apr., v. 159, no. 2
Journal Articles, USDA Authors, Peer-Reviewed
- Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.