Forest Investment Account

Abstract of FIA Project 200101

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Skull Mountain Monitoring Project - Mule Deer Monitoring Program

Author(s): Falat, Donna; Caswell, Dave
Subject: British Columbia, Biodiversity
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Land Base Investment Program - Innovative


The Skull Mountain SRMZ Monitoring Project is an operational trial to test the effectiveness of a prescription intended to mimic natural fire regimes in a dry Douglas-fir ecosystem. The prescription retained the largest diameter Douglas-fir trees and remove all other stems to a maximum retention of 10-25 trees/ha. As a result, all veteran trees were retained as well as some healthy canopied rotation age trees to make up the desired retention.
Low intensity, frequent fires (every 7-20 years, on average) were assumed to maintain an open stand, with well developed ground vegetation, particularly shrubs, and widely spaced, large diameter Douglas-fir trees. Early and late successional features were intended to be developed by the prescription in contrast to the mid-seral to mature stage that was common throughout the Skull Mt study site prior to harvesting, and currently throughout the control sites adjacent to the operational trials. Compared with stands that have received treatment application (assumed fire-maintained structure), mid-seral and mature stages have relatively more crowded and dense stands, with shallower canopies and poorly developed understory.
Fire-maintained, open stands with well developed and diverse herb and shrub species were expected to have provided optimal browse for wintering mule deer and requisite habitat features for other wildlife communities, such as birds. Wildlife species that exploited old-growth as well as early seral features (creepers and warblers, for respective examples) are rare in the controls (unharvested) stands that are denser with less developed understory. Crowded, dense stands that predominate the IDF landscape tend to be less diverse and dominated by fewer bird species that can be associated with forest health pests such as Douglas-fir and mountain pine beetles (red-breasted nuthatches and chickadees, for example).
Currently, the oldest operational trials are 3 year old cutblocks larger than FPC standard; two cutting permits remain to be completely harvested. Pre and post-treatment project monitoring has included breeding bird surveys in the spring and mule deer winter range use in early and late winter, with vegetation sampling complimenting both types of seasonal survey. The Skull Mtn SRMZ Monitoring Project has been peer reviewed to ensure rigorous and meaningful results, as well as cost-effective sampling regimes. The peer reviewer is UBC adjunct professor Dr Tom Sullivan, from the Faculty of Forestry. All sampling regimes are accepted RIC standards and commonly used in western North America to monitor operational trials. The peer review is planned to continue, focusing on current year results by evaluating reports for long-term trends in breeding bird communities and mule deer habitat use and relative densities.

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Updated September 08, 2005 

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