An RMRS paper published last month, “Megafire causes persistent loss of an old-forest species,” finds that “The negative effects of megafires on spotted owls are not ephemeral, but instead are likely to be enduring.”
- Extensive severe fire within spotted owl territories resulted in both immediate territory abandonment and prolonged lack of re-colonization by owls six years post-fire.
- Each additional 10 hectares of severe fire decreased the likelihood that owls would persist in a territory by 7.8% and decreased the likelihood a territory would be recolonized post-fire by 8.3%.
- Owl territories that experienced a greater mix of burn intensities (or high “pyrodiversity”) tended to persist after the fire.
- Salvage logging did not explain variation in post-fire persistence or recolonization; effects to owls could only be attributed to severe fire extent and pyrodiversity.
- Given the severe and persistent impacts of the King Fire on spotted owls, our work suggests that fuels reduction that limits megafires could benefit this species.
FWIW, Chad Hanson’s work in mentioned:
“In some cases, scientists have debated whether it is the disturbance itself (e.g., fire) or the subsequent management activities (e.g., salvage logging) that has caused estimated effects on sensitive wildlife species such as spotted owls (Hanson, Bond, & Lee, 2018; Jones et al., 2019). It is often the case that fire and salvage effects are confounded and thus cannot easily be separated (Clark, Anthony, & Andrews, 2013; Lee, Bond, & Siegel, 2012). In our study, we were able to separate these two effects and we unequivocally determined that severe fire, and not salvage logging, was correlated with the observed local declines in spotted owl site occupancy. We, thus, reject the hypothesis that salvage logging drove or even contributed to the observed post-fire decline. Given that both severe fire and salvage logging were included as competing covariates, the salvage effects were uninformative across all scales.”