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Post-breeding bird responses to canopy tree retention, stand size, and edge in regenerating Appalachian hardwood stands

January 1, 2011

Avian use of even-aged timber harvests is likely affected by stand attributes such as size, amount of edge, and retained basal area, all characteristics that can easily be manipulated in timber harvesting plans. However, few studies have examined their effects during the post-breeding period. We studied the impacts of clearcut, low-leave two-age, and high-leave two-age harvesting on post-breeding birds using transect sampling and mist-netting in north-central West Virginia. In our approach, we studied the effects of these harvest types as well as stand size and edge on species characteristic of both early-successional and mature forest habitats. In 2005–2006, 13 stands ranging from 4 to 10 years post-harvest and 4–21 ha in size were sampled from late June through mid-August. Capture rates and relative abundance were similar among treatments for generalist birds. Early-successional birds had the lowest capture rates and fewer species (∼30% lower), and late-successional birds reached their highest abundance and species totals (double the other treatments) in high-leave two-age stands. Area sensitivity was evident for all breeding habitat groups. Both generalist and late-successional bird captures were negatively related to stand size, but these groups showed no clear edge effects. Mean relative abundance decreased to nearly zero for the latter group in the largest stands. In contrast, early-successional species tended to use stand interiors more often and responded positively to stand size. Capture rates for this group tripled as stand size increased from 4 to 21 ha. Few birds in the forest periphery responded to harvest edge types despite within-stand edge effects evident for several species. To create suitable habitat for early-successional birds, large, non-linear openings with a low retained basal area are ideal, while smaller harvests and increased residual tree retention would provide habitat for more late-successional birds post-breeding. Although our study has identified habitat use patterns for different species in timber harvests, understanding habitat-specific bird survival is needed to help determine the quality of silvicultural harvests for post-breeding birds.

Publication Year 2011
Title Post-breeding bird responses to canopy tree retention, stand size, and edge in regenerating Appalachian hardwood stands
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2011.04.024
Authors Molly E. McDermott, Petra B. Wood
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Forest Ecology and Management
Index ID 70036102
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown