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Long-term dynamics and characteristics of snags created for wildlife habitat

August 31, 2017

Snags provide essential habitat for numerous organisms and are therefore critical to the long-term maintenance of forest biodiversity. Resource managers often use snag creation to mitigate the purposeful removal of snags at the time of harvest, but information regarding how created snags change over long timescales (>20 y) is absent from the literature. In this study, we evaluated the extent to which characteristics of large (>30 cm diameter at breast height [DBH]) Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) snags created by topping had changed after 25–27 y. We also tested whether different harvest treatments and snag configurations influenced present-day snag characteristics. Of 690 snags created in 1989–1991, 91% remained standing during contemporary surveys and 65% remained unbroken along the bole. Although most snags were standing, we detected increased bark loss and breaking along the bole relative to prior surveys conducted on the same pool of snags. Although snag characteristics were not strongly influenced by snag configuration, we found that snags in one harvest treatment (group selection) experienced less bark loss and had lower evidence of use by cavity-nesting birds (as measured by total cavity cover) relative to snags created with clearcut and two-story harvest treatments. Our results indicate that Douglas-fir snags created by topping can remain standing for long time-periods (≥25 y) in managed forests, and that the influence of harvest treatment on decay patterns and subsequent use by wildlife is an important consideration when intentionally creating snags for wildlife habitat.

Publication Year 2017
Title Long-term dynamics and characteristics of snags created for wildlife habitat
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.07.049
Authors Amy M. Barry, Joan Hagar, James W. Rivers
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Forest Ecology and Management
Index ID 70190429
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center