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Avian response to prescribed fire in a sagebrush-shrubsteppe ecosystem.
Noson, Anna1, Schmitz, Richard1, Miller, Richard1, 1
ABSTRACT- Suppression of wildfire in the sagebrush-shrubsteppe region of the intermountain west over the last century has caused fundamental changes in ecosystem dynamics. In productive sites that historically burned frequently, land managers have initiated the use of prescribed fire to restore the natural structural complexity of the landscape. Since many bird species associated with the shrubsteppe ecosystem are in decline, evaluation of the impact on the avian community is essential in developing land management strategies. During the 2000 breeding season, we conducted point counts of songbirds across burned and unburned shrubsteppe on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon. The area included a large prescribed burn conducted in the fall of 1999. Occurrence, relative species abundance, and species diversity were recorded for 205 points representative of the range in composition and configuration of burned habitats. We used Akaike's Information Criteria (AIC) and the information theoretic approach to identify predictors of species occurrence and relative abundance and evaluate the role of fire-influenced habitat characteristics on individual bird species and species assemblages. Sagebrush-associated species generally declined as the percentage of burned habitat increased. Certain species were more abundant in patchy mosaics of burned habitat than solidly burned areas. Results of this research give insight into the influence of prescribed burning on avian communities, and provide guidance for the use of fire in the management of shrubsteppe bird communities.
KEY WORDS: prescribed fire, shrubsteppe, songbirds