"We studied bird populations following two types of vegetation removal, prescribed fire and mastication (the mechanical crushing of vegetation), because both management methods have been used to try reduce wildfire risk in California chaparral," said Erica Newman, lead author of the study and scientist in the UA School of Natural Resources and the Environment.
"We know from multiple studies that any management eventually increases fire risk as invasive grasses move in," Newman said. "But to add to this, we now know that mastication in particular is extremely harmful to bird populations."
Study - February - Issue - Journal - Applied
The study appears in the February issue of Journal of Applied Ecology, available online today.
Chaparral is a fire-prone ecosystem in North America that is widespread throughout California. Although it makes up only 6 percent of California by area, it contains one-quarter of the species found in the California Floristic Province, a global biodiversity hotspot. To date, no other studies have compared the effects of different fire management types on California chaparral wildlife.
Plots - California - Researchers - Vegetation - Percent
Using 24 five-acre plots in northern California, researchers reduced vegetation by 95 percent with either prescribed fire or mastication in three different seasons (winter, fall and spring). They then tracked bird populations in each experimental and control plot using point-count surveys, in which researchers look and listen for birds for a set amount of time. Co-authors Jen Potts and Charles Vaughn visited the plots hundreds of times over the course of five years. They counted 49 species and approximately 2,500 birds.
Although bird species diversity and abundances rebounded after one-time use of prescribed fires, most birds never returned to masticated sites. Mastication...
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