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The Prairie Warbler, which was found to benefit from restored pine woodlands. Credit: University of Missouri.
Millions of acres of pine woodlands once covered a large portion of the Midwest. But as humans logged these trees and suppressed natural fires, the woodlands gave way to dense forests with thick leaf litter and tree species that were less fire-resistant, leading to more intense and unpredictable fires as well as the loss of native bird habitats.
Researchers - University - Missouri - Study - Restoration
Now, researchers from the University of Missouri have shown in a new study that restoration of pine woodlands, through the combined use of intentional, managed fires and strategic thinning of tree density, has a strikingly beneficial effect on a diverse array of birds, some of which are facing sharp declines from human-driven impacts like climate change and habitat loss.
"Some people might hear the words 'fire' and 'thinning' and immediately imagine charred, flattened wastelands, but that isn't the reality," said Melissa Roach, now a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey's Bird Banding Lab who carried out the study while completing her master's degree at MU. "Researchers are using these management techniques to restore beautiful open woodlands. In this study, we found that birds that have been struggling elsewhere are positively thriving in these restored areas."
Frank - Thompson - Biologist - USDA - Forest
Frank Thompson, a wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service and cooperative professor at MU's College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources with more than two decades of experience studying Midwestern bird populations, worked with Roach to survey 16 bird species in varying degrees of pine woodland density. These woodlands were located in parts of Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma in the Ozark-Ouachita Mountain Complex. Unlike most studies, Roach returned to the same locations three years in a row to monitor the bird populations over time.
The Summer Tanager, one of 16 bird...
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