Jump to content

The state of our birds


Recommended Posts

I thought this was one of the more interesting graphs in the study.

Bird Population Indicators:

overviewchart2indicator.jpg

Why has there been such a dramatic increase in wetland bird populations, particularly in comparison to arid and grassland species? According to the study:

"The upward trend for wetland birds in the U.S. is a testament to the amazing resilience of bird populations where the health of their habitat is sustained or restored. The overwhelming success of waterfowl management, coordinated continentally among Canada, the United States, and Mexico, can serve as a model for conservation in other habitats...

Dramatic declines in grassland and aridland birds signal alarming degradation of these often neglected habitats. Incentives for wildlife-compatible agricultural practices in grasslands and increased protection of fragile desert, sagebrush, and chaparral ecosystems are urgently needed to reverse these declines...

Although forest birds have fared better overall than birds in other habitats, many species have suffered steep declines and remain threatened by unplanned and sprawling urban development, unsustainable logging, increased severity of wildfires, and a barrage of exotic forest pests and disease, which will likely be exacerbated by climate change."

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 113
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • rprovines

    16

  • bosco mctavitch

    15

  • brymoore

    9

Why has there been such a dramatic increase in wetland bird populations, particularly in comparison to arid and grassland species?

For years legislation has heavily favored creation and replacement of wetlands.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Bosco,

I think we are finding that fire was an integral part of almost all North American forests.  I don't claim to be an expert on Northern forests, but you may remember that one of the most catastrophic forest fires in US history happened in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan in 1871 - the Peshtigo fire -which led to the mistaken USFS policy of fighting all forest fires.  This was in the heart of what was then the great northern forest.  At the same time, larger forest fires were ocurring in southern Michigan - so we know that large fires occurred in the Northern Forest in the old days.  

In the summer, any area that gets dry and gets thunderstorms will burn - and there is no doubt that fire was far more common in early settlement days before we had a widespread policy of fighting all fires.  There are reports from early settlers of forest fires a hundred miles or more in diameter, and prairie fires even larger than that.   Having said that, there is no doubt that other disturbances were important and remain important in distinct ecosystems.  In addition to those you mentioned, in some coastal areas - Hurricanes and tornadoes may have been a major cause of tree loss due to blowdowns, as well as insect infestations as we are now seeing in many of our western forests.  The point being that these forests were in a fairly constant state of flux, expanding and contracting in reaction to natural influences.  Unfortunately, logging doesn't have the sophisticated impacts of these natural processes -and tends to tear down more than it creats.

Kinda hitting on my area of expertise here Dave.  Times have changed a bit.  

All the great lakes states have timber harvesting standards that public land management agencies and most private company's comply with.  Some of us have standard BMP's in addition to having operations certified by a third party certification standard such as FSC or SFI (or both).  Would take some time to explain in detail, but in essence, applying BMP's and certification standards do a better job of replicating natural processes than you might be familiar with from your time in the western mountains.  Still amazed at what they let people get away with logging out there.  

We also have a more diverse natural disturbance history than I think you are implying.  Landform and local climatic influences largely determined disturbance type, intensity, and frequency.  Yes we have some areas historically prone to frequent wildfires.  But also others that tended to have a wind/small gap disturbance history.  Everything from flat pine on sand to rolling hardwoods on end moraines full of small wetlands.  

The timber harvesting practices are also increasingly using ecological information to determine Rx's and management direction.  Not always a good thing for the species we hunt, but I think you'd find it hard to find someone to claim we aren't moving closer to practicing ecologically sustainable forestry than further away.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Why has there been such a dramatic increase in wetland bird populations, particularly in comparison to arid and grassland species?

For years legislation has heavily favored creation and replacement of wetlands.

Bingo. And all the while also supporting healthy populations of ospreys, eagles, etc. that don't seem to have had a significant effect on a hugely successful recovery rate for game birds.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Fact is, there aren't enough of us who really care about wildlife habitat to really make a difference.  Hunters are the number one group who care about habitat. There aren't really that many of us and our numbers are steadily decreasing meaning we don't have the political clout we really need. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Fact is, there aren't enough of us who really care about wildlife habitat to really make a difference.  Hunters are the number one group who care about habitat. There aren't really that many of us and our numbers are steadily decreasing meaning we don't have the political clout we really need. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

You're right, Don. While traditionally hunters have been a formidable advocacy group for habitat protection, hunter numbers are dwindling according to every recent study I've seen. But I refuse to think that that means the situation is hopeless, or that it isn't worth it to fight for habitat anymore.

One problem that I see is that for too long hunters have been forced to decide between the party that is more likely to protect their gun rights and the party that is more prone to enact legislation to protect habitat. That needs to change, and I think that to some degree it is. But I think we also need to be more outspoken as a voting block about demanding that if you're a politician, and you're pandering to the hunting crowd for votes by bringing up gun rights, that we also expect that you're going to be an advocate for habitat protection, so that we continue to have a place to exercise those gun rights.

I also think we need to find more common ground with other user groups where our interests overlap, and I think they overlap a lot more than we realize much of the time. I think it's critical that we figure out how to partner with other outdoor user groups that also have an interest in protecting habitat, and show that we, as hunters, can cooperate with the tree-huggers, and bird nerds, and mountain bikers, etc. Cooperating in this way also improves our image as people who aren't just interested in killing things, and who are reasonable and looking to collaborate for the good of common interests.

An excellent recent example of this is the coalition, Sportman for the Wyoming Range. They have managed to bring together various hunting, angling, and conservation groups, as well as one of the most prominent outdoor education schools in the country, NOLS, with the common goal of fighting to protect the Wyoming range from future oil and gas development, and to preserve it for hunting, fishing, backpacking, etc.

And just today, the Wyoming Range Legacy Act passed Congress and will likely be signed into law early next week, protecting over 1.2 million acres of the Wyoming Range. It wouldn't have happened if all those diverse user groups that all too frequently look down their noses at each other hadn't found out that they have a lot in common and chose to work together.

So with examples like that, I can't give up hope yet.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Windy I enjoy reading your perspective on management issues would you please take the time to actaully write out names instead of using initials so I could better understand what your talking about

Thanks

Link to post
Share on other sites
Dave Gowdey

WH,

I'm not as familiar with what's left of the Greath Northern Forest as I am with our western forests.  However, from what I've read from the fire studies I have to admit that I don't see how its possible for any logging to have the subtle positive impacts upon the ecosystem that fire does, or other natural processes that cause change.  The reason is that there is a fundamental difference between the two.  Logging removes biomass from the system without replacing it.  Natural succession leaves biomass in the system while simply changing its composition.  The first is extractive, the second is evolutionary.  

When fire burns the forest, much of the wood that burns is converted into ash that is high in nitrogen -which adds nutrients to the soil and system.  This, in turn, fertilizes new growth.  This is why burned areas have such explosive plant growth where mowed areas don't.  Similarly when insects recycle trees that have been blown down - all of the nutrients that have been held in those trees will eventually return to the soil and the system.  When you cut down a tree and drag it out of the forest to turn into houses or furniture hundreds of miles away- those nutrients are not available to return to the system.

In addition, these natural changes tend to happen in a mosaic pattern- leaving pockets of adult vegetation interspersed with pockets of burned areas -allowing seeds to recolonize the burned areas.  

Finally, the use of heavy equipment to transport timber leads to runoff that silts up waterways and leads to fish extirpations.  Grayling, Trout, and Salmon are particularly vulnerable to such silting -which is why there is still a

town called Grayling in Michigan, but no more Grayling.  

It may be that some timber companies have found a way to refertilize the system - somehow replacing the biomass they have taken.  If so, I would be very interested in learning more about this.  I'm also unaware of any government regulations that do much more than stop the worst abuses of the past.  All of the government regulations I've seen don't go near far enough in limiting the damage of timbering and requiring habitat restoration afterwards. But, as you noted, I've long lived out west where forcing private interests to limit the damage they do to public lands and to restore damaged habitats is heresy to federal land managers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Again Dave our BMP's (Best Mgmt. Practices) probably go a great deal further than you are aware.  There are requirements for standing live trees, snags (standing dead trees), larger diameter down logs, legacy patches, sizes of landings and % of sales in roads and trails, buffers around wetlands and riparian zones, erosion control, and quite a bit more.  

If we are lax on implementing any of those BMP's, there's a good chance one of the third party auditors from the Forest Stewardship Souncil or Sustainable Forest Initiative will give us hell.  

Fire does remove carbon--what is consumed is not all returned to the earth.  Timber sales don't release the nutrients that fire does--but they also don't mine nutrients as much as you seem to think, at least not those of the kind we practice here.  Had some worries about phosphorous and nitrogen with clearcutting of aspen but research 15 or more years ago demonstrated we didn't have to worry.  Much of the nutrients--nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium....are left in the roots, tops, stumps and limbs left on site.  We'd have to get european in intensity of harvesting (utilize stumps and roots or go with very short rotation coppice/style management) to have an effect on soil nutrients through harvesting.  

About that same time research on forest soil fertilization petered out--there just was no need for it given standard timber harvesting practices at the time. And we harvest in an even more sustainable manner today--our BMP's came on board in the late 90's or so.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...