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Simulated treatment effects on bird communities inform landscape-scale dry conifer forest management

Citation

Latif, Quresh (2021), Simulated treatment effects on bird communities inform landscape-scale dry conifer forest management, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0zpc866zc

Abstract

Human land use and climate change have increased forest density and wildfire risk in dry conifer forests of western North America, threatening various ecosystem services, including habitat for wildlife. Government policy supports active management to restore historical structure and ecological function. Information on potential contributions of restoration to wildlife habitat can allow assessment of tradeoffs with other ecological benefits when prioritizing treatments. We predicted avian responses to simulated treatments representing alternative scenarios to inform landscape-scale forest management planning along the Colorado Front Range. We used data from the Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions program to inform a hierarchical multi-species occupancy model relating species occupancy and richness with canopy cover at two spatial scales. We then simulated changes in canopy cover (remotely sensed in 2018) under three alternative scenarios, 1) a “fuels reduction” scenario representing landscape-wide 30% reduction in canopy cover, 2) a “restoration” scenario representing more nuanced, spatially variable treatments targeting historical conditions, and 3) a reference, no-change scenario. Model predictions showed areas of potential gains and losses for species richness, richness of ponderosa pine forest habitat specialists, and the ratio of specialists to generalists at two (1km2 and 250m2) spatial scales. Under both fuels reduction and restoration scenarios, we projected greater gains than losses for species richness. Surprisingly, despite restoration more explicitly targeting ecologically relevant historical conditions, fuels reduction benefited bird species richness over a greater spatial extent than restoration, particularly in the lower montane life zone. These benefits reflected generally positive species associations with moderate canopy cover promoted more consistently under the fuels reduction scenario. In practice, contemporary forest management likely lies somewhere between the fuels reduction and restoration scenarios represented here. Thus, our results inform where and how active forest management can support avian diversity. Although our study raises questions regarding the value of including landscape-scale heterogeneity as a management objective, we do not question the value of targeting finer scale heterogeneity (i.e. stand- and treatment-level). Rather, our results combined with those from previous work clarify the scale at which targeting structural heterogeneity and historical reference conditions can promote particular ecosystem services.

Methods

All methods data collection and spatial analysis methods are described in the manuscript related to this dataset.

Usage Notes

A readme file included in this data repository catalogs its contents. The data repository include a git repository containing all scripts necessary to reproduce research results using the data provided in the data repository.

Funding

Natural Resources Conservation Service, Award: NR203A750023C012