Community occupancy responses of small mammals to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine forests, northern Arizona, USA

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21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In western North American conifer forests, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity due to heavy fuel loads that have accumulated after a century of fire suppression. Forest restoration treatments (e.g., thinning and/or burning) are being designed and implemented at large spatial and temporal scales in an effort to reduce fire risk and restore forest structure and function. In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests, predominantly open forest structure and a frequent, low-severity fire regime constituted the evolutionary environment for wildlife that persisted for thousands of years. Small mammals are important in forest ecosystems as prey and in affecting primary production and decomposition. During 2006-2009, we trapped eight species of small mammals at 294 sites in northern Arizona and used occupancy modeling to determine community responses to thinning and habitat features. The most important covariates in predicting small mammal occupancy were understory vegetation cover, large snags, and treatment. Our analysis identified two generalist species found at relatively high occupancy rates across all sites, four open-forest species that responded positively to treatment, and two dense-forest species that responded negatively to treatment unless specific habitat features were retained. Our results indicate that all eight small mammal species can benefit from restoration treatments, particularly if aspects of their evolutionary environment (e.g., large trees, snags, woody debris) are restored. The occupancy modeling approach we used resulted in precise species-level estimates of occupancy in response to habitat attributes for a greater number of small mammal species than in other comparable studies. We recommend our approach for other studies faced with high variability and broad spatial and temporal scales in assessing impacts of treatments or habitat alteration on wildlife species. Moreover, since forest planning efforts are increasingly focusing on progressively larger treatment implementation, better and more efficiently obtained ecological information is needed to inform these efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-217
Number of pages14
JournalEcological Applications
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Fingerprint

community response
small mammal
snag
habitat
thinning
woody debris
restoration
wildfire
generalist
forest ecosystem
vegetation cover
understory
modeling
coniferous tree
primary production
decomposition

Keywords

  • Ecological restoration
  • Evolutionary environment
  • Microtus mogollonensis
  • Neotoma mexicana
  • Occupancy modeling
  • Peromyscus maniculatus
  • Pinus ponderosa
  • Sciurus aberti
  • Spermophilus lateralis
  • Spermophilus variegates
  • Tamias cinereicollis
  • Thomomys bottae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

@article{f3e4dd007d3947a18391e860f132dfa1,
title = "Community occupancy responses of small mammals to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine forests, northern Arizona, USA",
abstract = "In western North American conifer forests, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity due to heavy fuel loads that have accumulated after a century of fire suppression. Forest restoration treatments (e.g., thinning and/or burning) are being designed and implemented at large spatial and temporal scales in an effort to reduce fire risk and restore forest structure and function. In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests, predominantly open forest structure and a frequent, low-severity fire regime constituted the evolutionary environment for wildlife that persisted for thousands of years. Small mammals are important in forest ecosystems as prey and in affecting primary production and decomposition. During 2006-2009, we trapped eight species of small mammals at 294 sites in northern Arizona and used occupancy modeling to determine community responses to thinning and habitat features. The most important covariates in predicting small mammal occupancy were understory vegetation cover, large snags, and treatment. Our analysis identified two generalist species found at relatively high occupancy rates across all sites, four open-forest species that responded positively to treatment, and two dense-forest species that responded negatively to treatment unless specific habitat features were retained. Our results indicate that all eight small mammal species can benefit from restoration treatments, particularly if aspects of their evolutionary environment (e.g., large trees, snags, woody debris) are restored. The occupancy modeling approach we used resulted in precise species-level estimates of occupancy in response to habitat attributes for a greater number of small mammal species than in other comparable studies. We recommend our approach for other studies faced with high variability and broad spatial and temporal scales in assessing impacts of treatments or habitat alteration on wildlife species. Moreover, since forest planning efforts are increasingly focusing on progressively larger treatment implementation, better and more efficiently obtained ecological information is needed to inform these efforts.",
keywords = "Ecological restoration, Evolutionary environment, Microtus mogollonensis, Neotoma mexicana, Occupancy modeling, Peromyscus maniculatus, Pinus ponderosa, Sciurus aberti, Spermophilus lateralis, Spermophilus variegates, Tamias cinereicollis, Thomomys bottae",
author = "Kalies, {E. L.} and Dickson, {Brett G} and Chambers, {Carol L} and Covington, {Wallace W}",
year = "2012",
month = "1",
doi = "10.1890/11-0758.1",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "22",
pages = "204--217",
journal = "Ecological Appplications",
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T1 - Community occupancy responses of small mammals to restoration treatments in ponderosa pine forests, northern Arizona, USA

AU - Kalies, E. L.

AU - Dickson, Brett G

AU - Chambers, Carol L

AU - Covington, Wallace W

PY - 2012/1

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N2 - In western North American conifer forests, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity due to heavy fuel loads that have accumulated after a century of fire suppression. Forest restoration treatments (e.g., thinning and/or burning) are being designed and implemented at large spatial and temporal scales in an effort to reduce fire risk and restore forest structure and function. In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests, predominantly open forest structure and a frequent, low-severity fire regime constituted the evolutionary environment for wildlife that persisted for thousands of years. Small mammals are important in forest ecosystems as prey and in affecting primary production and decomposition. During 2006-2009, we trapped eight species of small mammals at 294 sites in northern Arizona and used occupancy modeling to determine community responses to thinning and habitat features. The most important covariates in predicting small mammal occupancy were understory vegetation cover, large snags, and treatment. Our analysis identified two generalist species found at relatively high occupancy rates across all sites, four open-forest species that responded positively to treatment, and two dense-forest species that responded negatively to treatment unless specific habitat features were retained. Our results indicate that all eight small mammal species can benefit from restoration treatments, particularly if aspects of their evolutionary environment (e.g., large trees, snags, woody debris) are restored. The occupancy modeling approach we used resulted in precise species-level estimates of occupancy in response to habitat attributes for a greater number of small mammal species than in other comparable studies. We recommend our approach for other studies faced with high variability and broad spatial and temporal scales in assessing impacts of treatments or habitat alteration on wildlife species. Moreover, since forest planning efforts are increasingly focusing on progressively larger treatment implementation, better and more efficiently obtained ecological information is needed to inform these efforts.

AB - In western North American conifer forests, wildfires are increasing in frequency and severity due to heavy fuel loads that have accumulated after a century of fire suppression. Forest restoration treatments (e.g., thinning and/or burning) are being designed and implemented at large spatial and temporal scales in an effort to reduce fire risk and restore forest structure and function. In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests, predominantly open forest structure and a frequent, low-severity fire regime constituted the evolutionary environment for wildlife that persisted for thousands of years. Small mammals are important in forest ecosystems as prey and in affecting primary production and decomposition. During 2006-2009, we trapped eight species of small mammals at 294 sites in northern Arizona and used occupancy modeling to determine community responses to thinning and habitat features. The most important covariates in predicting small mammal occupancy were understory vegetation cover, large snags, and treatment. Our analysis identified two generalist species found at relatively high occupancy rates across all sites, four open-forest species that responded positively to treatment, and two dense-forest species that responded negatively to treatment unless specific habitat features were retained. Our results indicate that all eight small mammal species can benefit from restoration treatments, particularly if aspects of their evolutionary environment (e.g., large trees, snags, woody debris) are restored. The occupancy modeling approach we used resulted in precise species-level estimates of occupancy in response to habitat attributes for a greater number of small mammal species than in other comparable studies. We recommend our approach for other studies faced with high variability and broad spatial and temporal scales in assessing impacts of treatments or habitat alteration on wildlife species. Moreover, since forest planning efforts are increasingly focusing on progressively larger treatment implementation, better and more efficiently obtained ecological information is needed to inform these efforts.

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KW - Evolutionary environment

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KW - Neotoma mexicana

KW - Occupancy modeling

KW - Peromyscus maniculatus

KW - Pinus ponderosa

KW - Sciurus aberti

KW - Spermophilus lateralis

KW - Spermophilus variegates

KW - Tamias cinereicollis

KW - Thomomys bottae

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U2 - 10.1890/11-0758.1

DO - 10.1890/11-0758.1

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JO - Ecological Appplications

JF - Ecological Appplications

SN - 1051-0761

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