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Birds and Burns in the Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network

Fireline patrol at the prescribed burn at Blue Suck Preserve; photo Sam Lindblom.
The Central Appalachians Fire Learning Network (FLN) partners burned over 36,000 acres in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to meet objectives that benefit AMJV priorities. Burns were conducted on several new partner lands this year, including Douthat State Park in Virginia, New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, and Bethlehem (Water) Authority lands in Pennsylvania. Several large-scale burns were conducted over multiple days allowing for slow-paced and deliberate firing operations and longer resonance times on the landscape. The majority of these burns were implemented to benefit early successional/shrubland communities (American Woodcock, Golden-winged Warbler, Ruffed Grouse), mature hardwood/mixed forest communities (Cerulean
Warbler, Wood Thrush, Worm-eating Warbler) and open pine communities (Pitch pine, Short-leaf pine, Table Mountain pine).

FLN partners also completed the fourth year of monitoring avian community response to landscape-scale controlled burning in the Warm Springs Mountain Restoration Project, a collaborative initiative spanning lands owned by The Nature Conservancy and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia. Preliminary results of the study indicate that while specific avian species can show positive or negative responses to prescribed fire, their populations are resilient in geographic space and over time. Even after fire has been reintroduced to over 50% of the landscape, birds with negative associations to burned habitat show stable abundances across the broader landscape. Temporal effects of fire on habitat are very likely constrained to relatively short time horizons. A poster of this work was presented at the fall 2014 Northeast and Southeast Partners in Flight joint conference in Virginia Beach.