WEYDV-02-043

Post-Fire Colonization and Use of Burned and Salvaged Areas by Boreal Birds in a Mixedwood Forest
Sponsor: 
Weyerhaeuser Company Limited
Lead Researcher: 
David Stepnisky and Curtis Stambaugh, Masters students, University of Alberta, Edmonton
Body: 
The project took place in the Chip Lake fire area located north of Edson, Alberta. The fire offered an opportunity to explore the impact of wildfire, and subsequent salvage harvesting on boreal birds. The project was comprised of two separate studies; the Stambaugh study monitored the forest bird community over the first three years (1999-2001) following the wildfire, the Stepnisky studied the effects of salvage harvesting on Picoides woodpecker ecology.

Each study focused on upland, deciduous-dominated mature stand types. The design included sites within burned/harvested (Salvage), burned/not harvested (Leave) and unburned/not harvested (Control). The field data was collected using widely accepted sampling methods. The analyzed data supports the findings presented below.

Leave stands typically had a greater abundance of woodpeckers and songbirds than burned/harvested stands. By the second and third year post-fire, measures of songbird abundance and species richness were significantly higher within Leave treatments. Similarity indices identified moderate overlap in bird communities between Leave and Control treatments, and suggested increased similarity over time. Whereas divergence in similarity was found for bird communities in Salvage and Control sites. Leave sites had significantly greater numbers of woodpeckers, potential prey (bark and boring beetles), and potential nesting sites (deciduous snags). Within Leave sites, woodpeckers were most abundant in winter months compared to the breeding season, and declined annually over time in years following the fire. Woodpecker abundance, potential prey abundance, and available nesting sites all varied with burn severity. The study suggests that areas of recently burned older forest should be maintained on the landscape to provide habitat for post-fire species.