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PREDICTING POST-FIRE DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE OF THE BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER
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A Decision Support Tool for Post-fire Forest Management in California

The Institute for Bird Populations is committed to using the best possible science to inform management and conservation. In January 2013, in consultation with the USDA Forest Service, Dr. Morgan Tingley at University of Connecticut, and multiple NGO partners, we began to develop a geospatial tool to predict the abundance and density of Black-backed Woodpeckers in recently burned forests within the species’ range in California. The resulting Black-backed Woodpecker Abundance (BWA) model has now been utilized in collaboration with the Forest Service over several years to inform management decisions after numerous fires on multiple National Forests.
The purpose of the BWA model is to predict the average expected abundance of Black-backed Woodpeckers that are likely to be present in the early years following forest fires on ten National Forest units in California: Eldorado, Inyo, Modoc, Lassen, Plumas, Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, and Tahoe National Forest, as well as Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. The model can also be used to identify high-value (and low-value) areas for Black-backed Woodpeckers within a fire footprint, and to predicted the effects of multiple, spatially explicit forest management scenarios on the local Black-backed Woodpecker population.
The BWA model utilizes only widely available geospatial environmental data in order to make these predictions, meaning that the BWA model can be implemented just weeks to months after a fire has finished burning. We hope the model will be used for better management of post-fire ecosystems, including the prioritization of burned stands for retention for Black-backed Woodpeckers and other wildlife.
The BWA model is presented formally in Tingley et al. (2016). In order to aid with the implementation of the model, we have also produced a summary document with detailed instructions (Tingley et al. 2015) and provided full R code and an example on our Github site. Together, we hope these resources will empower forest managers and other interested parties to use this model for future post-fire forest management and planning.
For further information on the BWA model, please contact Rodney Siegel. For bugs and trouble-shooting, please contact Morgan Tingley.

Literature Cited

Tingley, M. W., R. L. Wilkerson, C. A. Howell, and R. B. Siegel. 2016. An integrated occupancy and home-range model to predict abundance of a wide-ranging, territorial vertebrate. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Article currently available in Early View at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12500/abstract or by request from Rodney Siegel.
Tingley, M. W, R. L. Wilkerson, and R. B. Siegel. 2015. Explanation and guidance for a decision support tool to help manage post-fire Black-backed Woodpecker habitat. The Institute for Bird Populations, Point Reyes Station, California. PDF