2022 article

Managing for red-cockaded woodpeckers is more complicated under climate change

Lucash, M. S., Weiss, S., Duveneck, M. J., & Scheller, R. M. (2022, September 21). JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT.

co-author countries: United States of America 🇺🇸
author keywords: forest management; hurricanes; LANDIS-II; modeling; Picoides borealis; prescribed fire
Source: Web Of Science
Added: September 26, 2022

Abstract Open pine ( Pinus spp.) savannas are home to the federally endangered red‐cockaded woodpecker ( Leuconotopicus borealis ). Frequent fires are essential for maintaining the open canopy and wiregrass ( Aristida stricta ) groundcover preferred by these woodpeckers, which face ongoing threats from climate change, hurricanes, and land use change. Our objective was to project future changes in habitat for red‐cockaded woodpeckers at the Fort Bragg military installation in North Carolina, USA, under different scenarios of climate and disturbances from 2000 to 2050. We used a spatially explicit, forest simulation model (LANDIS‐II) to simulate climate change, hurricanes, and forest management (prescribed fire, thinning, harvesting). We examined the relative risks of climate change and hurricanes to red‐cockaded woodpecker habitat and quantified the capacity of management practices to promote their habitat, given hurricanes and projected changes in climate. Climate change had little direct effect on red‐cockaded woodpecker habitat, but it reduced the capacity of managers to use prescribed fire, as currently practiced. This effect became more pronounced in the scenario with low prescribed fire frequency, which caused a 10% decline in habitat under climate change. Hurricanes had a more substantial impact on red‐cockaded woodpecker habitat than climate change or management, causing an average decline in extent by 41% compared to scenarios without hurricanes. Our work suggests that hurricanes pose a greater threat to red‐cockaded woodpecker habitat than climate change, but despite these threats, overall habitat will likely still increase until 2050, which bodes well for this endangered species. Deployment of prescribed burning became more challenging under climate warming, and if this trend continues, it may threaten red‐cockaded woodpecker conservation efforts over the next century.