Effect of fire severity on long-term occupancy of burned boreal conifer forests by saproxylic insects and wood-foraging birds.
Antoine Nappi, Pierre Drapeau, Michel St-Germain, Virginie-Arielle Angers.
Fire severity can vary greatly within and among burns, even in the Canadian boreal forest where fire regimes consist mostly of stand-replacing fires. We investigated the effects of fire severity on the long-term occupancy of burns by (i) saproxylic insects and (ii) three wood-foraging birds. Based on observations made 6 to 11 years after fire in burned conifer forests that varied in fire severity in Quebec, Canada, our results indicate that low-severity portions of the burns likely provided snag conditions suitable for the long-term presence of deadwood-associated insects and birds. The black-backed woodpecker, a post-fire forest specialist, was still abundant 6 and 8 years after fire. This pattern was likely explained by the persistence of several saproxylic insect species that are associated with recently dead trees and by the positive effect of lower fire severity on the abundance of Arhopalus foveicollis, a cerambycid with a long life cycle in dead wood. The American three-toed woodpecker and the brown creeper, and their associated prey (Scolytinae beetles), were more abundant in burned stands of lower v. higher severity. We conclude that less severely burned snags and stands within high-severity burns may favour the long-term presence of trophic webs that involve saproxylic insects and wood-foraging birds in burned boreal forests.