• Camera trap monitoring of wildlife following a wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock forest

      Jaeger, Tristan; Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2020-05-05)
      Forest disturbance can drastically alter wildlife habitat (i.e., cover, forage and prey abundance). Response of wildlife to disturbance events, particularly the timing involved in returning to pre-disturbance conditions, are important aspects of overall ecosystem recovery and resilience. Here, we study wildlife occurrence and usage patterns following a disturbance at a sandstone pavement pine barren in northern NY. This site is dominated by Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) with an understory largely comprised of Vaccinium angustifolium (Low-bush Blueberry) and Gaylussacia baccata (Huckleberry) serving as a major wildlife resource and fuel for this fire-dependent system. In July 2018, ~220ha of this forest was burned in a wildfire. In fall 2018, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing a gradient of burn severity as well as an adjacent unburned reference area. Annual and seasonal abundances, and diel wildlife activity were characterized using the camTrap package in R Studio. Over the course of the study, overall species richness in the unburned and burned areas were differed (n= 15 and n= 13 respectively), though total occurrences were higher in the unburned (n = 361) than in the burned area (n = 480). Common species captured on the barren include Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare), and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel) which more prevalent in the unburned, while Canis latrans (Coyote) were more common in the burned area. Seasonal trends in wildlife abundance show a clear benefit to being in the unburned area in fall through winter 2018 as it provides resources and hiding cover. In spring, wildlife increased activity within the regenerating burn which remained in high use until summer-fall 2019. Interestingly, Coyote’s use of burned and unburned areas tracks that of their Snowshoe Hare prey and is most pronounced in the burn during spring. At the barren, Snowshoe Hare and Coyote behave nocturnally as compared the diurnal activity of White-tailed Deer. In the unburned area, Coyote appear to shift activity to capture the morning peak of Deer. Further long-term monitoring will elucidate how wildfire affects wildlife community composition, abundance, and distribution on the Altona Flat Rock sandstone pavement barren.
    • Wildlife Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Pine Barren in Northern NY

      Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2019-05)
      In July of 2018, approximately 221 hectares of forest were burned in a wildfire at a sandstone pavement barren in Altona NY. Forest overstory is predominantly Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) and Betula lenta (Black Birch), whereas understory is comprised of ericaceous shrubs and Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern). Within weeks of the burn, Jack Pine’s sertoninous cone seeds had germinated and regeneration of fern stolons and birch stump sprouts appeared. We sought to monitor wildlife in response to forest regeneration at the sandstone pavement barren burn as compared to a reference (unburned) site. For this study, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing the burn intensity gradient. Game cameras were equally distributed across the burn and reference sites and remained unbaited. Diel wildlife activity was made possible using camTrap package in R Studio, which organizes image files according to metadata (e.g., time, temperature, species) and facilitates interpretation. Species recorded in the burn sites were, Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Canis latrans (Eastern Coyote), Leporidae (Rabbit family), Lynx rufus (Bobcat), Procyon lotor (Raccoon), and Pekania pennanti (Fisher). In addition to these species, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel), Sciurus carolinensis (Gray Squirrel) and Bonasa umbellus (Ruffed Grouse) were observed in the reference but not the burn sites. In fall 2018, species richness was greater (n = 9) on the reference versus the burn sites (n = 6). In addition, there was greater wildlife abundance (n = 98) at the reference versus the burn sites (n = 44). Diel activity differed for some species between sites, in particular White-tailed Deer activity was crepuscular at the reference site, with activity peaks at both 8am and 6pm, as compared to a single longer duration morning activity bout on the burn. Biodiversity typically responds positively to wildfire in response to regeneration; however this was not observed in the first season following the disturbance. Continued monitoring of wildlife in response to wildfire may reveal differing patterns as the forest continues to succeed.