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

t, clear-cut logging leaves large, regularly shaped patches with clean edges.

The role of wildfire in these forests is still poorly understood, however, and the researchers point out that increased knowledge of this and other kinds of disturbances could be used to develop new kinds of management practices which might provide or encourage the development of high quality habitat for the owls.

The researchers further suggest that dispersed patches of different vegetation types may provide a stable prey resource to the owls which could help to buffer them against the effects of a variable climate.

Also, say the scientists, it would be far more likely that a future catastrophe in the form of long periods of poor weather would affect all of the owls simultaneously if habitat quality is decreased over a very large area.

"Our research suggests that excessive loss of key landscape habitat components, such as that which occurs when old growth and mature forests are heavily clearcut, can exacerbate the effects of an unfavorable climate," says Franklin. "Most conservation plans for the Northern Spotted Owl assume that their overall population will decline from habitat loss and then stabilize as habitat amount eventually stabilizes. We have learned, however, that as habitat quality and populations decrease in size, the effects of climate 'catastrophes' could be extremely detrimental to these animals."

Other factors besides habitat, says Franklin, need to be considered in order for conservation plans to succeed.


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Contact: Alison Gillespie
alison@esa.org
202-833-8773 ext 211
Ecological Society of America
16-Nov-2000


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