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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Fire and avian ecology in North America: process influencing pattern
Year: 2005
Author(s): Saab, V. A., Powell, H. D.
Source Title: Studies in Avian Biology
Source Type: Journal
pages: 1-13
Original Publication: http://  
Abstract: We summarize the fi ndings from 10 subsequent chapters that collectively review fire and avian ecology across 40 North American ecosystems. We highlight patterns and future research topics that recur among the chapters. Vegetation types with long fire-return intervals, such as boreal forests of Canada, forests at high elevations, and those in the humid Pacific Northwest, have experienced the least change in fire regimes. The spatial scale of fires has generally decreased in eastern and central North America, while it has largely increased in the western United States. Principal causes of altered fire regimes include fire suppression, cessation of ignitions by American Indians, livestock grazing, invasion by exotic plants, and climate change. Each chapter compiles the responses of birds to fire in a specific region. We condensed these responses (203 species) into a summary table that reveals some interesting patterns, although it does not distinguish among fire regimes or time since fire. Aerial, ground, and bark insectivores clearly favored recently burned habitats, whereas foliage gleaners preferred unburned habitats. Species with closed nests (i.e., cavity nesters) responded more favorably to newly burned habitats than species with open-cup nests, and those nesting in the ground and canopy layers generally favored burned habitats compared to shrub nesters. Future directions for research suggested by authors of individual chapters fell into two broad groups, which we characterized as habitat-centered questions (e.g., How does mechanical thinning affect habitat?) and bird-centered questions (e.g., How does fire affect nest survival?).