Avian response to fuels management in the Lake Tahoe Basin: importance of treatment intensity
Fire suppression over the past century has resulted in high and potentially dangerous fuel loading in many western forests, which threatens both forest health and human infrastructure. To reduce risks from high-intensity wildfires, fuel reduction treatments are being implemented on both state and federal lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin. In this project, we employed a Before-After Control-Impact design on 16 sites (8 pairs of treatment and control sites) to assess the response of birds to fuel reduction treatments. Using sites which encompassed a variety of treatment prescriptions, we collected data on bird abundance, as well as forest structure, from 2006 to 2011. We analyzed changes in avian abundance as a function of both treatment and treatment intensity (as indicated by change in basal area) to determine response to fuels management.
While overall avian abundance showed little change following treatment, we did find significant treatment responses in 15 species, spanning a wide range of habitat requirements. Most of these significant changes in abundance were in response to treatment type, and treatment intensity added little predictive power. This may be more reflective of our representation of treatment intensity. Basal area change may not be the most appropriate variable to indicate treatment intensity, and we hope that future research will determine reliable methods of determining fuels treatment intensity. Nonetheless, our results provide meaningful results to forest managers looking to predict the impact of fuels management on forest bird communities.