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Forest Wildlife Richard H. Yahner, Carolyn G. Mahan, and Amanda D. Rodewald What is a Forest? ► Group of trees in defined area ► Geography – dependent Coniferous forests (Western) ►Examples: Pacific coast Douglas fir, Rocky mountain lodgepole pine Deciduous forests (Eastern) ►Examples: Lake States Aspen/birch, Central Mountains oak/hickory History of Forests ► Pre-European forest covered 2/3 of North America Disturbance regime: wildfires, native Americans ► 17th century – 21st century 53% decline in forest coverage Timber harvesting, non-native pathogens (e.g., Chestnut blight, agricultural clearing ► Loss of all but 3-5% old growth forest ► Second growth forest dominates today Forest Management and Ownership ► Commercial, reserved, and noncommercial forestlands—focuses on timber resources ► Forests used by 80-90% of N. American vertebrates ► Ownership of forests effects management decisions for wildlife East—dominated by private West – dominated by public (e.g., US Forest Service) Early Legislation ► Forest Reserve Act (1891) Created first forest reserves ► Organic Act (1897) Established National Forest Service (later, USFS) Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot (1st Head, USFS) set aside millions of acres ► Weeks Law (1911) Created state and national partnerships for forest land acquisition Other Legislation ► Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act (1960) Forests may be managed for wildlife and other uses ► National Environmental Protection Act (1969) Environmental Impact Statements required ► Forest Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (1974) Coordinated activities on federal lands including wildlife management More Recent Legislation ► ► ► ► National Forest Management Act (1976) Viable populations of vertebrates must be maintained on federal lands Emergency Salvage Timber Act (1995) Expedited reviews for salvage timber operations on federal lands Renewable Resources Extension Act (1978) Created Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act Forest Conservation Relief Act (1990) Set aside harvestable land for protection of endangered species Early Successional Forest ► ► Occurs after a disturbance Primary Secondary Early successional forest wildlife American woodcock, New England cottontail Use fire and cutting to maintain Forests and Fires ► Some forest trees need fire Aspen, pitch pine, oaks ► Prescribed fire Controls non-native plants Creates habitat for bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, Kirtland’s warbler ► Habitat by fire mosaic created Forest Management ► ► ► Uneven age Trees of different ages retained via selective cutting (size class or age classes) or thinning Seed tree, shelterwood, clustered clearcuts Creates or maintains habitat for wildlife Hooded warbler, ovenbird, eastern cottontail, fox squirrel Even age Clearcutting Promotes early successional habitat ►Size of cut influences wildlife species Even- and Uneven-aged Forest Stands Distribution of tree sizes in an even-aged forest stand (A) and an uneven-aged forest stand (B) Recommendations for Wildlife-Sensitive Timber Harvesting 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Protection of important habitat features (e.g., vernal pools) Enhancing vertical diversity of forests Retention of forested buffers along streams Retention of overstory trees Retention of dead and decaying trees Retention of woody debris Creation of meandering edges Maximizing forest interior habitat Retention of old forest stands Forest Fragmentation ► ► Transformation of a large expanse of forest into a number of smaller patches of smaller total area, which are isolated from one another by a matrix of habitats unlike the original. Creates edge--Junction of two landscape elements (plant communities, land uses, or successional stages Edge Created by Forest Cutting Edge Effects on Wildlife ► ► ► ► Birds—increased nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds; increased nest predation Small isolated forest patches may not support area-sensitive species like neotropical migrants, large mammalian predators Corridors or connections between patches help diminish fragmentation effects Forest reserves should minimize edge, be continuous, large (~ 30 ha), with minimal disturbances Species Area Curve Biodiversity and Forests ► Biodiversity (biological diversity) Genetic Species Community/ecosystem Landscape ► Ecosystem management Management with biodiversity values included Applies to variety of spatial scales (local, regional, global) Managing Forests for Wildlife ►5 main considerations Biodiversity Fragmentation Education (forests as outdoor laboratories) Recreation (hunting, hiking, bird watching) Regional and Global influences (countering effects of global climate change, stabilizing soils, habitat protection) SUMMARY Forest types, ownership, and legislation can affect the value of forests to wildlife. Plant-forest succession resulting from fire, chemicals, or management systems can have profound effects on forest wildlife. For example, uneven-aged forest management can influence wildlife distribution and abundance differently than even-aged forest management. Several practices (e.g., retention of unique habitat features or overstory trees in harvested stands) can have positive effects on forest wildlife. The impacts of forest management, however, cannot be considered solely from the stand level (e.g., stand size), but must take into consideration landscape features (e.g., characteristics of surrounding landscape). Several types of models are available to predict wildlife species occurrences and adjust forest-management regimes. Successful forest management in the future will be contingent on biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management to ensure a sustainable, productive, and healthy forest for the benefit of wildlife while simultaneously providing educational and recreational values.