Bird Conservation on Managed Forest Landscapes

ROOM: Room 110 – Galisteo
Sustainable forest management represents, at its core, a fundamental challenge of meeting fiber demands for human use, balanced with multiple societal needs and concerns, including maintaining ecological function and meeting conservation goals. Finding this balance is critically important for sustainability and contains elements of forest certification, consumer confidence, and the viability of forest products industries. One such concern is conservation of forest-dwelling birds on landscapes that provide forest products. This symposium addresses the current state of and projected trends in forest management and how those factors influence conservation and management of forest bird communities. Demands for forest products and concurrent effects on bird populations will be discussed. Empirical studies investigating avian population responses to a wide range of forestry practices will be presented. Presentations in this symposium will address management and research concerns from across Canada and the continental United States.

1:10PM Introduction: The Role of Forest Management in Forest Bird Conservation
  Gary J. Roloff
Bird responses to forest management have been widely used as a measure of the ecological effects of forestry throughout North America. These birds depend on forests for at least part of their life history and include a broad range of species that at least breed in the United States or Canada. Breeding Bird Survey results from 2005-2015 suggest that populations of most species (86% United States; 89% Canada) of woodland breeding birds increased or stayed the same. However, significant declines were observed for some notable forest species including veery, wood thrush, and eastern wood-pewee. Reasons for these species-specific declines vary and likely interact, including loss of tropical wintering habitats, breeding patch fragmentation and isolation, and simplification of breeding season forest structure. At individual landowner scales, forest managers acknowledge the important role they play in bird conservation as evidenced by research expenditures, partnerships with bird conservation organizations, and adjustments to operations to benefit certain species. At larger scales, for example, the largest forest certification system in North America (Sustainable Forestry Initiative; ~115 million ha) has partnered with conservation organizations to improve bird habitat quality on certified forests. Although birds are one of the most studied vertebrate organisms throughout North America, our understanding of bird community responses to forest management practices is sometimes lacking. As an introduction to the symposium titled Bird Conservation on Managed Forest Landscapes, I will review historical trends in forest bird populations, discuss trends in forestry-bird research, and establish the context for the remaining talks in the symposium.
1:30PM American Woodcock Reproductive Rates in Relation to Forest Structure at Local and Landscape Scales
  Allie Shoffner; David Luukkonen; David Williams; Scott Winterstein
Long-term declines in American woodcock (Scolopax minor) abundance have been documented in Michigan as well as range-wide since consistent monitoring began in 1968. Available demographic estimates for woodcock indicate that declines in abundance may be linked to declines in reproductive rates associated with changes in breeding habitat characteristics. To better understand the relationship between habitat and woodcock population dynamics, we will determine the effects of local and landscape-scale habitat characteristics on woodcock reproductive rates in two distinct ecological regions of Michigan. We located female American woodcock and their nests using trained volunteer woodcock banders and their pointing dogs. We assessed nest success and documented predators of woodcock and their nests by placing trail cameras at nests. We measured survival by capturing, radio-tagging, and monitoring adult female and juvenile American woodcock. We measured and evaluated variables relevant to woodcock reproductive rates, such as temperature, precipitation, body condition, as well as variables describing habitat structure at local and landscape scales. We will present preliminary findings from this recently initiated study. Future results will be used to recommend habitat treatments that enhance woodcock reproductive rates and thus help halt or reverse woodcock population declines.
1:50PM Avian Conservation Within Working Forests of the Southeastern US
  Emily Jo Williams
With support from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is working with several SFI program participants including Weyerhaeuser Company, Resource Management Services, Hancock Timber Resource Group, Georgia Pacific, Enviva, Westervelt Company, Forest Investment Associates, Campbell Global, Rayonier, Potlatch Corporation, and Molpus Timberlands in an ambitious partnership to better understand conservation value of sustainably managed forests, including inherent habitat value of these forested landscapes for birds and opportunities for improvement, potentially across millions of acres of managed forestland. Across the United States and Canada, more than 280 million acres of forestland are certified to the SFI Forest Management Standard, and millions more are influenced through the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard. In the Southeast, experts with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) and Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) are joining the effort to find “sweet spots” where bird conservation and forestry goals coincide to sustain bird habitat across large areas. Within a focal geography spanning the Southeast from southern Virginia to southeastern Louisiana, we are collecting data on forest condition and bird distribution in four pilot areas. Eleven bird species serve as indicators of the habitat value of these forested landscapes and will assist in identifying potential adjustments to management that could improve conditions for some species. Information on forests managed under SFI standards will be combined with information about bird distribution and habitat preferences compiled by bird experts with SFI program participants, ABC, NCASI and ARCI. In May 2017, workshops in the pilot areas brought together foresters, landowners, and scientists to discuss initial assessments in a forest setting. Together, we are working towards a shared understanding of forest management and bird conservation to develop recommendations that inform management decisions and promote the value of forests managed and conserved for a variety of objectives.
2:10PM The Role of Early Successional Forests in Maintaining Forest Bird Populations
  Mark E. Swanson
Forest disturbance and the early successional (pre-forest) habitats that it generates are increasingly recognized as a major factor in the conservation of native species assemblages in temperate forest landscapes. Birds, a diverse and culturally and ecologically important guild of organisms, present a strong example of the importance of the early seral stage. Even birds strongly associated with closed or mature forest environments may facultatively utilize early seral environments under certain conditions or for particular life stages. Examples will be drawn from continental Europe (capercaillie), the Caribbean and upper Midwestern USA (Kirtland’s Warbler), the Pacific Northwest (northern spotted owl and various passerines), Sierra Nevada (CA) mixed conifer forests (mountain quail, flycatchers, white-headed woodpecker, great gray owl), and South America (shrub-dependent passerines). The disproportionate abundance of birds on lists of conservation-listed species in the Pacific Northwest that are dependent on early succession is discussed. A range of early successional conditions, including types with abundant woody structures, a productive shrub/forb layer, and incomplete tree dominance, will be necessary at present and in the future to maintain the full assemblage of birds, forest-dependent or otherwise. In landscapes where conservation of biodiversity is mandated or otherwise valued, timber harvest may incorporate substantial structural and compositional complexity in terms of retained structures, post-harvest applied disturbance (e.g., patchy prescribed fire), and spatial patterning of regeneration activities.
2:30PM An Early-Successional Shrubland Habitat Decision Support Tool
  David King; Jason Coombs; Keith Nislow; Jeffrey Ritterson; Michael Akresh; Jeffrey Collins
Normal 0 As a result of changes in natural and anthropogenic disturbance regimes, the extent of early-successional forest across much of eastern North American is near historic lows, and continues to decline. This has caused many scientists to identify the conservation of early-successional species as a high priority.Because natural disturbance can no longer be relied upon to support shrubland birds in our region, managers are engaged in the creation and maintenance of shrublands to conserve shrubland bird populations using historical agents (e.g. fire) where possible or surrogates (mowing etc.) when necessary to achieve desired future conditions. Each of these treatment has a particular conservation outcome in terms of bird abundance and species composition. Furthermore they also vary widely in terms of financial cost ranging from >$1,000/acre for brush hogging to silviculture, which typically yields revenue. These practices are also often controversial since they involve creating treeless openings over large areas, and further complicated because the suite of bird species varies both geographically, across landscape conditions, and over successional time. Using research from our lab and published sources we have developed a web-based decision support tool that provides conservation practitioners with site-specific information that will enable them to evaluate current conditions, predict management outcomes and compare management scenarios in terms of bird abundance and species composition, objective measures of conservation value, and cost. By resolving this uncertainty this tool increases the efficiency and effectiveness of shrubland management, thereby enhancing populations of shrubland birds throughout the region.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Habitat Selection and Movement of Fledgling Cerulean and Golden-Winged Warblers in Managed Mixed-Oak Forests of the Central Appalachian Mountains
  Jeffrey Larkin; Cameron Fiss; Doug Raybuck; Darin J. McNeil; Amanda Rodewald; Than Boves; Scott Stoleson
The post-fledgling period is one of the most poorly understood parts of songbird annual cycle. Recent studies have demonstrated that many forest bird species exhibit different habitat use patterns between the nesting and post-fledging periods. The implications of this behavior are such that conservation efforts for declining birds which focus solely on nesting habitat may fall short of providing quality habitat for the entire reproductive cycle. We studied the influence of forest structure on fledgling resource selection and movements of two at-risk forest-dependent species for which considerable conservation funds are being allocated toward via the implementation of species-specific forest management guidelines. Specifically, we examined patterns of habitat selection and movements of radio-tagged Golden-winged (N=84) and Cerulean (N=21) Warbler fledglings in managed mixed-oak forests from 2014 to 2016. Fledglings of both species exhibited changes in habitat selection as they aged. Of the fledglings that survived until the end of the 4-week tracking period, mean dispersal distance from the nest was 850m and 2.4km for Golden-winged and Cerulean fledglings, respectively. Golden-winged fledglings moved at faster rates (m/d) when in forests with higher basal area (i.e., mature forest) and at slower rates when in forests with reduced basal area (i.e.,early-successional forests). This movement pattern along with habitat selection results suggests Golden-winged fledglings used mature forest (the landscape matrix) for traveling between patches of regenerating forests. Providing or retaining large, contiguous tracts of forest may be necessary to prevent the confinement of Cerulean Warbler dispersal. These results highlight the importance of managing forested landscapes in a way that optimizes the distribution and diversity of forest structure in areas where Golden-winged and Cerulean Warbler conservation is a goal.
3:40PM Guild-Specific Effects of Intensive Forest Management on Avian Abundance
  Jake Verschuyl; Jack Giovanini; Matthew G. Betts; Andrew J. Kroll
Globally distributed tree plantations are viewed as a strategy to supply wood products for an expanding human population while reducing pressure on natural forests. Herbicides are used to accelerate growth of crop trees by suppressing competing vegetation, but early seral communities may be negatively affected by reduced vegetation abundance and richness. Using data collected after stand-replacing disturbance (clearcutting), we applied a large-scale randomized complete block experiment to test avian population responses in the Pacific Northwest, USA, 2011-2016. We evaluated how abundance changed for 28 species in response to three levels of plant cover reduction (Light, Moderate, and Intensive herbicide applications) in relation to a control without herbicide. By 2015, we found no evidence of differences in total abundance of non-leaf-gleaning species on any of the treatments compared to the control. In contrast, total abundance of leaf-gleaning birds was reduced from 30-70%, depending on treatment, and this effect lasted through 2016. Specifically, abundance of three species of leaf-gleaning warbler, MacGillivray’s, orange-crowned, and Wilson’s, was reduced ~50% on all treatments compared to the control. Also, we found substantial block-specific variation, suggesting that other factors (landscape conditions, local population size) may mediate treatment effects on individual stands. Our results suggest that stand-level trade-offs between avian abundance and wood production may be less severe than previously recognized, as breeding populations of the 28 species occurred on all treatments. However, demographic information is required to compare the relative contribution of both treatment and control stands to unmanaged stands, and to determine how these contribute to the maintenance of regional bird populations in the Pacific Northwest.
4:00PM Forest Management, Bird Diversity, and Early Successional Forests in the Southern US: Research to Date
  Scott Rush
The southern United State has a great variety of ecosystems, spanning maritime forest and pine savanna to mountain ravines and high elevation balds. The spatial distribution and quantity of these ecosystems has changed considerably throughout human habitation, affecting not only availability of early successional forest but also the regeneration of millions of acres of other forest types. In particular, loss of disturbance regimes that perpetuate existence of early successional habitats, has affected the abundance, diversity and persistence of avian communities. Past research has evaluated how changes in early successional forest communities, and persistence of these ecosystems has influenced migratory and resident birds at various points throughout their yearly and life cycles. We have also learned that many birds that rely on mature forests as adults also use early successional habitats for part of their life cycles. Changes within early successional ecosystems and the phenology of their productivity and senescence are also of note as mismatch in the availability of resources can influence individual birds, species and communities. With emphasis centered on the southeastern United States and changes within these forest systems, I will discuss issues and opportunities to enhance conservation for birds that use early successional forest communities.
4:20PM Provision of “Open Pine” Conditions on Managed Forest Landscapes in the Southeastern US: Responses from Avian Communities
  Darren A. Miller
Pine (Pinus spp.) forests of the southeastern United States were historically perpetuated by fire, both of natural and anthropogenic origin. Subsequently, many plant and animal species are adapted to pine forests with a relatively open canopy, a minimal midstory, and a diverse herbaceous understory. Some avian species associated with these “open pine” conditions are of conservation concern due to reduced extent and suitability of appropriate habitat conditions, the latter primarily related to altered structure due to fire suppression. However, interest has grown in understanding if managed pine forests, through frequent forest disturbance associated with timber management, can provide open pine conditions for avian communities. Due to prevalence of managed pine forests on the southeastern landscape (approx. 15.8 million hectares), there is significant potential conservation value from such forests. Therefore, I reviewed studies from both from young and post-thinned pine stands regarding their ability to provide appropriate habitat conditions for avian species associated with open pine. Past research has documented diverse avian communities within managed pine stands, including species of conservation concern associated with open pine conditions. Due to frequent stand disturbance, managed pine landscapes consist of a shifting mosaic of forest successional stages conducive to supporting bird species associated with various seral conditions, including open pine. Additional forest management tools, such as prescribed fire, herbicide, and tree spacing can be used to improve habitat conditions for avian communities associated with open pine within these landscapes. Results of this review suggests that using species-specific responses to habitat conditions at local and landscape scales may be a valuable tool for informing what stand characteristics constitute open pine conditions, especially in managed pine landscapes. I will also discuss issues and opportunities for managing habitat for open pine bird communities within landscapes primary managed for providing forest products.
4:40PM Migratory Bird Joint Ventures: Bridging Science and Implementation to Conserve Migratory Birds Across North America
  Becky Keller
Migratory Bird Joint Ventures are cooperative, regional partnerships that work to conserve habitat for the benefit of birds, other wildlife, and people. Established by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan in 1986, Joint Ventures (JVs) now cover nearly all of the U.S. and Canada, and much of Mexico. There are twenty-two habitat-based Joint Ventures, each addressing the bird habitat conservation issues found within their geographic area. Joint Ventures implement all elements of Strategic Habitat Conservation at scales that influence populations, using science and a landscape perspective to maximize the effectiveness of local delivery. Joint Ventures are self-directed partnerships, governed by a management board that defines, prioritizes, leverages, and leads implementation of JV conservation priorities at the appropriate levels in their respective geographies. While each JV shares this operational structure, they also leverage a diversity of conservation expertise and create collaborations at a variety of scales to uniquely address complex conservation challenges, and this adaptability allows the JVs to quickly respond to developing conservation issues. Numerous Joint Ventures have developed bird conservation projects within the forested landscape that benefit both birds and people. For example, the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture is managing for many disturbance-dependent bird species within forested lands, from clear cuts to open woodlands. The Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture works to both increase early successional habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler and Prairie Warbler and to open even-aged closed-canopy forests for the Cerulean Warbler and other interior forest specialists. Joint Ventures bridge the gap between high level conservation planning by bird planning partnerships like Partners in Flight to local and regional habitat delivery specialists who are working directly with landowners and foresters to improve habitat conditions for birds on public and private forested lands.

Organizers: Darren J.H. Sleep, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Montreal, QC; Andrew de Vries, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Ottawa, ON; Gary Roloff, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI; Jenniffer Bakke, Hancock Forest Management, Independence, OR
Supported by: TWS Forestry and Wildlife Working Group, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement

Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 24, 2017 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm