Taking the long view: examining factors which influence Northern Spotted Owls

ompanies, much like many other forests within the region.

A total of ninety owl sites were examined. Climate data were also collected, including precipitation amounts and temperatures on the study area. The territories defended by the birds in the study were recorded, and these territories were measured and tracked throughout the ten years in which data was gathered.

Cold, Wet Springs Decrease Survival Rates

Results showed that the annual survival of adult owls varied the least over time, whereas the rate at which they successfully produced and raised young varied the most. Climate explained most of the variation over time in life history traits; years with cold, wet springs resulted in a decreased survival rate for the owls.

The research team discovered that Spotted Owls are likely to be most effected by climate during the spring when they are reproducing. This is because Spotted Owls have critical energy demands during the breeding season, and precipitation may inhibit the birds' ability to hunt, thus decreasing the survival rates of both the adult and the immature owls during this period.

Data gathered by the team indicated, in fact, that extreme climate conditions during the early nesting period may exacerbate an energetic stress on an individual by decreasing the time it takes for an owl to starve to death.

The owls, the research team hypothesizes, may employ a "bet hedging" strategy; adults may survive during years with unfavorable climatic conditions even though the young do not. Thus, the owls which survive will live to reproduce again in other years when the climate is more favorable.

"Even if habitat conditions remain unchanged, Northern Spotted Owl populations may experience declines just due to bad weather," says Franklin.

Edge Important to the Species

The researchers also discovered that the habitat which is most conducive to h

Contact: Alison Gillespie
202-833-8773 ext 211
Ecological Society of America

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