Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Oxford University Press USA
A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications shows that certain endangered owls may continue to persist and even flourish after large forest fires.
Throughout western North America, longer, hotter fire seasons and dense fuels are yielding more frequent, larger, and higher-severity wildfires. Spurred by climate change, megafires in the region are often characterized by unusually large, continuous patches of high-severity fire in mature forests.
The Great Gray Owl is an endangered species in California. The Great Gray Owl population was recently estimated at fewer than 100 pairs in the state. The 2013 Rim Fire burned 104,000 acres in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest, making it the largest recorded fire in California's Sierra Nevada region. The fire perimeter contained 23 meadows known to be occupied by Great Gray Owls during the decade prior to the fire, representing nearly a quarter of all known or suspected territories in California at the time.
Researchers analyzed 13 years of Great Gray Owl detection data (from 2004 to 2016) from 144 meadows in the central Sierra Nevada, including meadows inside and outside the Rim Fire perimeter in Yosemite National Park and on Stanislaus National Forest.