Bird-habitat associations and simulated effects of logging on bird habitat in the aspen boreal mixedwood

Nyree Elizabeth Sharp
It has recently become profitable in the Alberta mixedwood boreal forest to harvest aspen trees for pulp and paper production. Logging practices have the potential to alter the physical structure and resident vertebrate communities of the forest. Simulation models are an important tool in the study of such broad-scale habitat alterations. SIMFOR is a spatially-explicit model that integrates the predicted effects of forest harvest on specific habitat attributes and the response to these effects
more » ... e to these effects by vertebrate species. I explored these effects by focusing on the resident bird community. I first grouped the bird species into habitat-dependency groups, or guilds, based on their life history requirements. Then, using data provided by an extensive study in northern Alberta, I developed statistical relationships between these guilds and certain habitat attributes which life history characteristics suggest would be important for those species. I also developed projections of the availability of these attributes over time, using existing data and modelling. I entered these trends and relationships into SIMFOR, along with maps and harvest schedules for a representative township in Alberta. This allowed me to project the amount of suitable habitat that will be available over time for each guild, and also the spatial distribution of that habitat. The bird guilds exhibited a variety of responses to simulated logging. Those with more specific habitat requirements, such as primary cavity nesters, were predicted to decline under current forest management plans. Those with less specific habitat requirements and a preference for early serai stages were predicted to respond positively to logging in the short term. These results suggest that a variety of stand ages should be maintained over the management area, with a particular emphasis on providing a continuous supply of those attributes of old stands with which some guilds are closely associated. Adaptive management would seem the most efficient way of evalua [...]
doi:10.14288/1.0075428 fatcat:bvzovytyujh4pn7c6u6vt2qtke