Sierra Nevada Lidar Study of Spotted Owls Suggests That Thinning Understory Might Be OK

Sierra Nevada Lidar Study of Spotted Owls Suggests That Thinning Understory Might Be OK

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Here is an interesting story from UCDavis via Treesource.

Remote sensing technology has detected what could be a win for both spotted owls and forest management, according to a study led by the University of California, Davis, the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and the University of Washington.

For 25 years, many forests in the western United States have been managed to protect habitat for endangered and threatened spotted owls. A central tenet of that management has been to promote and retain more than 70 percent of the forest canopy cover.

However, dense levels of canopy cover leave forests prone to wildfires and can lead to large tree mortality during droughts. Thus, the disconnect between two significant land management goals.

In the study, published in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, scientists found that cover in tall trees is the key habitat requirement for spotted owls — not total canopy cover. It indicated that spotted owls largely avoid cover created by stands of shorter trees.

“This could fundamentally resolve the management problem because it would allow for reducing small tree density through fire and thinning,” said lead author Malcolm North, a research forest ecologist with UC Davis’ John Muir Institute of the Environment and the USDA Pacific Southwest Research Station. “We’ve been losing the large trees, particularly in these extreme wildfire and high drought-mortality events. This is a way to protect more large tree habitat, which is what the owls want, in a way that makes the forest more resilient to these increasing stressors that are becoming more intense with climate change.”

“The analysis helps change the perception of what is important for owls — the canopy of tall trees rather than understory trees,” said co-author and spotted owl expert R.J. Guitiérrez, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota. “The results do not mean a forest should be devoid of smaller trees because owls actually use some of those smaller trees for roosting. But it suggests a high density of small trees is likely not necessary to support spotted owls.”

Here’s the study. Of course, the press release format doesn’t cover the usual scientific caveats like they only studied part of California and so on..

I’m interested in how this fits in with what our readers in California have observed.

Superforest

via A New Century of Forest Planning http://ift.tt/YeNBM9

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