California Spotted Owl, Songbird, and Small Mammal Responses to Landscape Fuel Treatments

TitleCalifornia Spotted Owl, Songbird, and Small Mammal Responses to Landscape Fuel Treatments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsStephens, SL
Secondary AuthorsBigelow, SW
Tertiary AuthorsBurnett, RD
Subsidiary AuthorsCollins, BM, Gallagher, CV, Keane, J, Kelt, DA, North, MP, Roberts, LJay, Stine, PA, Van Vuren, DH
Start Page893
Keywordsfuels and fuel treatments, mixed conifer management, techincal reports and journal articles

A principal challenge of federal forest management has been maintaining and improving habitat for sensitive species in forests adapted to frequent, low- to moderate-intensity fire regimes that have become increasingly vulnerable to uncharacteristically severe wildfires. To enhance forest resilience, a coordinated landscape fuel network was installed in the northern Sierra Nevada, which reduced the potential for hazardous fire, despite constraints for wildlife protection that limited the extent and intensity of treatments. Small mammal and songbird communities were largely unaffected by this landscape strategy, but the number of California spotted owl territories declined. The effects on owls could have been mitigated by increasing the spatial heterogeneity of fuel treatments and by using more prescribed fire or managed wildfire to better mimic historic vegetation patterns and processes. More landscape-scale experimentation with strategies that conserve key wildlife species while also improving forest resiliency is needed, especially in response to continued warming climates.