Wildlife Response to Wildfire in a Northern New York Jack Pine Barrens
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Publication Begin page676
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AbstractNatural disturbances are an integral part of forested ecosystem function and successional path-ways. In many forested ecosystems, wildfires are critical to shaping composition and structure, which in turn has major implications for wildlife usage and behavior. In July 2018 a wildfire burned 225 ha of the Altona Flat Rock pine barrens in northern New York. This event presented the opportunity to study how wildlife respond to the immediate effects of disturbance in this unique habitat but also how that response would change through time as regeneration progressed. Game cameras were deployed from September 2018-September 2020 at two reference (unburned) and two disturbed (burned) sites within the pine barrens. We analyzed total and seasonal occurrences, to determine how usage differed between disturbed and reference conditions, and with time since disturbance. Additionally, for coyote (Canis latrans, Say), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, Zimmermann), and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus, Erxleben), we evaluated daily activity patterns and overlap to determine how predator-prey relationships differed between conditions, and with time since disturbance. Over 730 days a total of 1,048 wildlife occurrences were captured across 23 wildlife species. Fifty-seven percent of all occurrences were at reference sites with over 100 more occurrences than disturbed sites, however, differences were most pronounced immediately following the fire and overall occurrences have grown more similar between the sites over time. Specifically, deer and hare were found more often at reference sites immediately following the fire, but shifted to using both conditions equally by the first growing season. Habitat overlap among sympatric prey (deer, hare) can be explained by understory regeneration increasing foraging opportunities and concealment cover in the disturbed condition, while predators (coyotes) tracked prey availability regardless of the habitat condition. This study provides wildlife management guidance on habitat use and response to disturbance for this unique sandstone pavement barrens.
CitationCave H, Adams M, Jaeger T, et al (2021) Wildlife response to wildfire in a northern New York jack pine barrens. Forests 12:676. https://doi.org/10.3390/f12060676
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