NCASI co-hosts symposium on songbirds and early seral habitats

In North America, there is growing recognition that young forests, also known as “early seral forests,” have significant conservation value and are declining in availability in some regions. Recently, Oregon State University (OSU), Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI), and NCASI co-sponsored a symposium titled “Songbirds and Early Seral Habitats.” The goal of the one-day symposium was to advance discussion and understanding of the importance of young forests and the species that depend on them. Over 200 land managers, landowners, and biologists attended. An agenda for the symposium is available at http://oregonforests.org/songbird-symposium.

Many speakers at the symposium were associated with the Intensive Forest Management (IFM) study, a cooperative experiment led by OSU and NCASI on lands managed by several NCASI Member Companies and the Oregon Department of Forestry.  The IFM study was initiated in 2009 to explore how plant and animal communities respond to experimental changes in the amount of herbicides used to manage competing vegetation in young, regenerating forests. In coastal Douglas-fir regions of the Pacific Northwest, herbicides often are used during stand establishment to manage competing broadleaf plant species. Yet, the influence of such practices on bird species in early seral forests remain poorly understood. 

The symposium provided an opportunity for speakers from a variety of organizations to discuss their perspectives on creation and management of young forests, and for investigators to present results from the first four years of the IFM study. Preliminary results show an initial reduction in the abundance of bird species in young forests immediately following the most intense vegetation control treatments. However, by year three of stand growth, several of those bird species had increased in abundance. By year four, there was no difference in abundance between treated and untreated stands for four of six bird species associated with young forests. The number of nests of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), a songbird that requires regenerating forest habitats for breeding, and moth species diversity and abundance, were unaffected by herbicide treatment through year four. Investigators also are measuring tree growth and survival to better understand possible trade-offs between bird response and wood volume at harvest age. The IFM study is designed to continue through canopy closure, or approximately year 12 of stand growth. 

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