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Wildfire is a natural process in the forests of the western US, and many species have evolved to tolerate, if not benefit from it. But wildfire is changing. Research in the journal Biological Conservation, published by Elsevier, suggests fire, as it becomes more frequent and severe, poses a substantial risk to goshawks in the Sierra Nevada region.
How Northern Goshawks respond to fire is not well understood. The single study to date examined the effects of fire on nest placement and found that the birds avoided nesting in areas burned at high severity. The effects of fire on the birds' roosting and foraging habitat however may be more complex, because prey populations may temporarily increase in burned areas and improve their quality as a foraging habitat.
Wildlife - Animals - Landscape - Life - Cycle
"To effectively manage and conserve wildlife, we need to understand how animals use the landscape across their life cycle," noted corresponding author Dr. Rachel Blakey at The Institute for Bird Populations and UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science.
Dr. Blakey and her colleagues at the institute wanted to better understand the habitat preferences of Northern Goshawks. In collaboration with scientists at the US Forest Service and the US Geological Survey Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Missouri, the research team looked specifically at how goshawks use burned areas in the Plumas National Forest, California.
Goshawks - Positioning - System - GPS - Devices
Twenty Goshawks were fitted with solar-powered global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices that monitored the habitats the goshawks chose for foraging and night-time roosting. Goshawks preferred forest stands with larger, more mature trees and higher canopy cover-also called "late seral" forest-for both roosting and foraging.
"While there was individual and sex-based variability in selection of habitat at the finest scales, at the larger spatial scales that are arguably most important for management, goshawks consistently selected for late-seral forest,"...
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