Woodpecker helps managers promote new life in burned forests

by Pat Leonard, Cornell Chronicle
April 26, 2023

Scientists have created a tool based on the habitat preferences of the black-backed woodpecker to help forest managers make decisions that promote regrowth and biodiversity following wildfires.

“Wildfire is like a 10,000-piece puzzle, and climate change is rearranging the pieces,” said Andrew Stillman, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and first author of “Incorporating Pyrodiversity Into Wildlife Habitat Assessments for RapidPost-Fire Management: A Woodpecker Case Study,” published April 25 in Ecological Applications.

“Gigantic, severe fires are becoming the new norm in California due to drought, longer burn seasons and dense forests. But birds do really well in landscapes that are ‘pyrodiverse’ – areas where fire results in uneven patches burned at high, medium, and low severity,” Stillman said.

Black-backed woodpeckers love pyrodiversity. They prefer to build their nest cavities in newly burned areas after high severity fires. But they also like to be adjacent to areas that burned at low intensity, where their young can hide from predators among living trees that still provide cover. Because of the species’ unique habitat associations, they are sensitive to the removal of trees after fire, and forest managers use information on the woodpecker to guide their post-fire planning.

Keep reading: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2023/04/woodpecker-helps-managers-promote-new-life-burned-forests

Read the Ecological Applications paper: https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/eap.2853