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Fire Ecology

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Ecosystem management -- Southern States, Endangered species, Fire ecology, Red-cockaded woodpecker -- Effect of forest management on, Longleaf pine -- Effect of fires on


Background: Endangered species management has been criticized as emphasizing a single-species approach to conservation and, in some cases, diverting resources from broad-based, land management objectives important for overall biodiversity maintenance. Herein we examine perceptions on management for an endangered species whose habitat requirements largely depend on frequent fire, the red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis Vieillot). In doing so, we consider the alignment between species-specific population recovery actions and broader ecosystem restoration goals. Through semi-structured interviews with natural resource professionals (n = 32) in the Southeast Coastal Plain of the United States, we examined manager perspectives on the evolution of recovery efforts and the potential alignment of recovery efforts with other management goals and objectives on public lands.

Results: Participants described an evolution of approaches to manage red-cockaded woodpeckers, from an initial emphasis on intensive management actions with a single-species focus to reduce extinction risk (e.g., artificial inserts and translocation of individual birds) to a broader focus on restoring forest conditions and the processes that maintain them (e.g., fire). Most participants considered red-cockaded woodpecker habitat management to be compatible with other resource management actions (e.g., prescribed fire, mechanical thinning). However, there were some notable exceptions as a smaller but substantive number of participants indicated that specific habitat management guidelines (basal area guidelines for foraging habitat) posed a barrier to implementing preferred ecosystem restoration actions (transitioning stands of fast-growing, short-lived pines to longleaf pine [Pinus palustris Mill.]). Overall, participants expected efforts to provide habitat for red-cockaded woodpeckers to continue regardless of its conservation status and that intensive, single-species management actions would likely decrease over time.

Conclusions: Providing for the specific needs of specialist species that are in decline is often necessary to prevent their extinction in the near term. Our findings suggest that the ability to connect long-term management actions to recover endangered species to other agency priorities may promote the willingness of managers to prioritize and continue long-term management of their habitats.


Note: At the time of writing, Shelby A. Weiss was affiliated with the Ohio State University.

© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.



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