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Sustaining Forests

Spatiotemporal response of the male Kirtland’s warbler population to changing landscape structure over 26 years

Research Issue

[photo:] Male Kirtland WarblerSpecies conservation remains an important challenge for ecologists and managers given the rate of habitat transformations occurring worldwide.  Strategic planning for wildlife restoration programs over broader geographic regions will become the standard rather than the exception as increasing numbers of populations become smaller and more isolated.  However, there continues to be a lack of synthesis between general principles of the fragmentation process and field evidence.  To further our understanding of habitat loss/fragmentation, we need to examine how populations that currently exist in patchy environments respond to increasing habitat amounts and changing arrangements over long time periods and broad spatial scales simultaneously.    

Our Research

[image:] Aerial view of jack pine planting pattern used in Kirtland's warbler habitat management programUsing historical data on the endangered Kirtland’s warbler population within their restricted breeding range in northern Lower Michigan, we examined how changing landscape structure (i.e., amount, composition and configuration) from 26 years of forest management and wildfire disturbances influenced population size, growth and spatial distribution, and habitat use in space and time.

Expected Outcomes

Our results show that the amount of suitable habitat and relative area of wildfire-regenerated habitat were the most important factors explaining an increasing, nonlinear population trend from 1979 - 2004.  The location of wildfire-regenerated habitat also modified the distribution of males among various habitat types, and their spatial variation in abundance across the primary breeding range.  In addition, the population showed various responses to patch area and isolation depending on the population size and amount of suitable habitat available.  Patch characteristics and temporal large-scale processes (e.g., rate of habitat creation and fraction of occupied patches) also influenced the timing of patch colonization and abandonment by male Kirtland’s warblers. 

Research Products

Donner, Deahn M., C.A. Ribic, J.R. Probst. 2010. Patch dynamics and the timing of colonization-abandonment events by male Kirtland's Warblers in an early succession habitat. Biological Conservation 143: 1159-1167.

Donner, Deahn M., Christine A. Ribic, John R. Probst. 2009. Male Kirtland's Warblers' patch-level response to landscape structure during periods of varying population size and habitat amounts. Forest Ecology and management 258: 1093-1101.

Donner, D.M., J.R. Probst, and C.A. Ribic.  2008.  Influence of habitat amount, arrangement, and use on population trend estimates of male Kirtland’s warblers.  Landscape Ecology 23:467-480.

Research Participants

Principal Investigators

  • Deahn M. Donner, US Forest Service, Northern Research Station - Landscape Ecologist

Research Partners

  • Probst, John R., US Forest Service Northern Research Station - Research Ecologist (Retired)
  • Christine A. Ribic, US Geological Survey, Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI

Last Modified: December 9, 2016