, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 467-480
Date: 04 Mar 2008

Influence of habitat amount, arrangement, and use on population trend estimates of male Kirtland’s warblers

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Abstract

Kirtland’s warblers (Dendroica kirtlandii) persist in a naturally patchy environment of young, regenerating jack pine forests (i.e., 5–23 years old) created after wildfires and human logging activities. We examined how changing landscape structure from 26 years of forest management and wildfire disturbances influenced population size and spatial dispersion of male Kirtland’s warblers within their restricted breeding range in northern Lower Michigan, USA. The male Kirtland’s warbler population was six times larger in 2004 (1,322) compared to 1979 (205); the change was nonlinear with 1987 and 1994 identified as significant points of change. In 1987, the population trend began increasing after a slowly declining trend prior to 1987, and the rate of increase appeared to slow after 1994. Total amount of suitable habitat and the relative area of wildfire-regenerated habitat were the most important factors explaining population trend. Suitable habitat increased 149% primarily due to increasing plantations from forest management. The relative amount and location of wildfire-regenerated habitat modified the distribution of males among various habitat types, and the spatial variation in their abundance across the primary breeding range. These findings indicate that the Kirtland’s warbler male population shifted its use of habitat types temporally and spatially as the population increased and as the relative availability of habitats changed through time. We demonstrate that researchers and managers need to consider not only habitat quality, but the temporal and the spatial context of habitat availability and population levels when making habitat restoration decisions.