Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Vermont
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Smith, K. W., W. S. Keeton, T. M. Donovan, and B. Mitchell. 2008. Stand-level forest structure in avian habitat: scale dependencies in predicting occurrences in a heterogeneous forest. Forest Science 54:36-46.


We explored the role of stand-level forest structure and spatial extent of forest sampling in models of avian occurrence in northern hardwood-conifer forests for two species: black-throated blue warbler (Dendroica caerulescens) and ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus). We estimated site occupancy from point counts at 20 sites and characterized the forest structure at these sites at three spatial extents (0.2, 3.0, and 12.0 ha). Weight of evidence was greatest for habitat models using forest stand structure at the 12.0-ha extent and diminished only slightly at the 3.0-ha extent, a scale that was slightly larger than the average territory size of both species. Habitat models characterized at the 0.2-ha extent had low support, yet are the closest in design to those used in many of the habitat studies we reviewed. These results suggest that the role of stand-level vegetation may have been underestimated in the past, which will be of interest to land managers who use habitat models to assess the suitability of habitat for species of concern.