Habitat selection of the Corsican Nuthatch (Sitta whiteheadi) after a fire

Abstract

The Corsican Nuthatch Sitta whiteheadi is a bird endemic to Corsica Island and has a very small population. Its habitat, Corsican pine Pinus nigra laricio forest, is currently restricted to less than 16,000 ha and is threatened by forest fires. In this article, we aim (1) to evaluate the effects of a large wildfire on a Nuthatch population, and (2) to identify the habitat features that influence the presence/absence of the Nuthatch after fire, so as to promote appropriate forestry practices after fire. The study has been conducted on a study plot of 300 ha which is part of a larger area severely burnt in August 2003. Habitat characteristics have been investigated on 39 plots of 1,225 m2 occupied by the bird, and 22 randomly chosen plots without the Nuthatch. We observed a decrease of 37.5% in Nuthatch abundance the first spring after the fire, but the impact showed great local variation as a function of fire severity. Logistic modelling showed that the presence of Nuthatch mainly depended on the degree of crown alteration: the Nuthatch tended to be present when at least one pine had less than 2.5 m of crown burned. We have no evidence of any direct fire-induced mortality, but several effects of fire can explain this population decrease, namely, the reduction of canopy volume, the decrease of the amount of pine seeds, and the reduction of nest-site availability. These results permit us to propose a simple criterion that can help in choosing the plots to be cut where salvage logging is necessary.

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Acknowledgments

We express our gratitude to Mick Marquiss for improving a first draft of the manuscript, to Didier Hacquemand, Jean Lefèbvre, Laurent Riche, and Denis Soulé, (Office National des Forêts) for providing us with unpublished data, and two anonymous referees for their careful reading. This study was granted by the Office de l’Environnement de la Corse, the DIREN-Corse (French ministry of environment), and the Office National des Forêts (Management-Environment Unit). The studies are complying with the current laws of the France, country in which they were performed.

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Correspondence to Roger Prodon.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Moneglia, P., Besnard, A., Thibault, JC. et al. Habitat selection of the Corsican Nuthatch (Sitta whiteheadi) after a fire. J Ornithol 150, 577 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10336-009-0379-1

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Keywords

  • Fire severity
  • Pinus nigra laricio
  • Salvage logging
  • Bird conservation
  • Endemic