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Study: Mountain quail may benefit from high severity wildfire

Study: Mountain quail may benefit from high severity wildfire
Mountain Quail. Credit: Kristin M. Brunk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Mountain Quail are an under-studied but recreationally-valued management indicator species in California's Sierra Nevada. They are notoriously difficult to study due to their penchant for impenetrable, dense, shrubby habitats, high elevations, and steep slopes.

In a study now published in the journal Fire Ecology, researchers used 1,636 autonomous recording units across about 22,000 square kilometers to conduct the first ever systematic and comprehensive study of Mountain Quail habitat associations and fire ecology in the Sierra Nevada.

Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the University of Minnesota, Univesity of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Montana conducted this research.

  • Study: Mountain quail may benefit from high severity wildfire
    Acoustic monitoring unit in a burned forest in the Sierra Nevada. Credit: Kristin M. Brunk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • Study: Mountain quail may benefit from high severity wildfire
    Acoustic monitoring unit in a Sierra Nevada forest. Credit: Kristin M. Brunk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The scientists found that Mountain Quail were more common than previously thought (mean occupancy was about 50% across study sites). They also found positive associations between Mountain Quail occupancy and high severity fire. Mountain Quail were most positively associated with areas that had burned at high severity in the past 6-10 years, but the researchers also found positive associations ranging between 1 and 35 years after high-severity fire.

Future fire regimes in the Sierra Nevada are expected to include more frequent and larger high-severity fires, which are predicted to negatively impact many iconic Sierra Nevada species. The results suggest that Mountain Quail may be "winners" in the face of altered regimes in the Sierra Nevada. This work is a reminder that there will be both winners and losers as the dynamics of wildfire are altered in the era of climate change.

More information: Kristin M. Brunk et al, Quail on fire: changing fire regimes may benefit mountain quail in fire-adapted forests, Fire Ecology (2023). DOI: 10.1186/s42408-023-00180-9

Provided by Cornell University

Citation: Study: Mountain quail may benefit from high severity wildfire (2023, April 24) retrieved 15 July 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-mountain-quail-benefit-high-severity.html
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