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Marbled Murrelets Select Distinctive Nest Trees within Old-Growth Forest Patches

DOI: 10.5751/ace-00462-060203

Keywords: Brachyramphus marmoratus ,British Columbia &searchField=keyword"> British Columbia , habitat selection , Marbled Murrelet , nest tree

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Abstract:

The coastal old-growth forests of North America's Pacific Coast are renowned both for their commercial and ecological value. This study adds to growing evidence that selective harvesting of the largest trees may have a disproportionate ecological impact. Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus), a threatened species, nest almost exclusively in these old-growth forests. Detailed knowledge of nesting habitat selection provides guidance for habitat management and conservation. Habitat selection for this species has been studied at a variety of scales using ground and remote methods. However, because Marbled Murrelet nesting activity is limited to a single mossy platform on a single tree, we investigated nest tree selection within old-growth forest patches, using a set of 59 forest patches containing active nests. Nest trees were usually distinctive compared with neighboring trees in the surrounding 25 m radius patch. They averaged 15 to 20% taller than neighboring trees depending on region, had significantly larger stem diameters, more potential nesting platforms, and more moss. They had the most extreme values of height and width about three times as often as expected by chance. An analysis of moss platform use as a function of number of platforms per platform tree suggests that murrelets select individual platforms, rather than platform trees per se. Nonetheless, highly selective logging practices that remove high-value trees from stands may also remove trees most likely to be selected by nesting murrelets.

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