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California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) habitat use patterns in a burned landscape

June 27, 2017

Fire is a dynamic ecosystem process of mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, but there is limited scientific information addressing wildlife habitat use in burned landscapes. Recent studies have presented contradictory information regarding the effects of stand-replacing wildfires on Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis) and their habitat. While fire promotes heterogeneous forest landscapes shown to be favored by owls, high severity fire may create large canopy gaps that can fragment the closed-canopy habitat preferred by Spotted Owls. We used radio-telemetry to determine whether foraging California Spotted Owls (S. o. occidentalis) in Yosemite National Park, California, USA, showed selection for particular fire severity patch types within their home ranges. Our results suggested that Spotted Owls exhibited strong habitat selection within their home ranges for locations near the roost and edge habitats, and weak selection for lower fire severity patch types. Although owls selected high contrast edges with greater relative probabilities than low contrast edges, we did not detect a statistical difference between these probabilities. Protecting forests from stand-replacing fires via mechanical thinning or prescribed fire is a priority for management agencies, and our results suggest that fires of low to moderate severity can create habitat conditions within California Spotted Owls' home ranges that are favored for foraging.

Publication Year 2017
Title California Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) habitat use patterns in a burned landscape
DOI 10.1650/CONDOR-16-184.1
Authors Stephanie Eyes, Susan L. Roberts, Matthew D. Johnson
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title The Condor
Index ID 70188939
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center