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Reproductive success of the black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) in burned boreal forests: Are burns source habitats?

Biological Conservation
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.01.022
  • Fire
  • Dead Wood
  • Birds
  • Picidae
  • Nest Success
  • Source-Sink
  • Biology
  • Ecology


Abstract The black-backed woodpecker ( Picoides arcticus) is considered a fire specialist throughout its breeding range. Given its high abundance in recent burns, it has been hypothesized that post-fire forests are source habitats for this species. We conducted a 3-year post-fire study to evaluate the temporal occupancy and reproductive success of black-backed woodpeckers in high-severity burned black spruce forests of central Quebec, Canada. We examined how reproductive success varied temporally and spatially within a burned landscape and investigated the potential source or sink status of this woodpecker population over time. Woodpecker nest density was high in the year after fire but declined significantly over the 3-year period. Based on 106 nests, nest success declined from 84% the first year after fire to 73% and 25%, respectively, for the second and third years after fire. Nest density and reproductive success were higher in areas with high proportions of burned mature forests than in areas dominated by burned young forests. Reproductive success was also higher in proximity to unburned forests. Comparison of annual productivity with a range of survival estimates indicated that these burned forests likely functioned as source habitats for the first 2 years following fire, although this status varied as a function of pre-fire forest age. Our results suggest that post-fire forests may contribute significantly to population levels in fire-prone ecosystems. Forest management practices that reduce the amount of mature and over-mature forests can affect the quality of post-fire habitats important to the black-backed woodpecker and other fire-associated species.

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