1. Postfire salvage logging is the most commonly applied forestry practice in burned forests world-wide, mainly for economic reasons. However, it strongly affects bird communities and is generally considered to be detrimental for bird conservation. In Europe, many open-habitat species are currently declining owing to land use changes. Wildfires, which are common disturbances in the Mediterranean Basin, can create suitable habitat for these species but the effect of postfire salvage logging on bird communities is unknown.
2. We surveyed breeding birds in two burned secondary pine forests from the western Mediterranean Basin and analysed the effect of salvage logging and vegetation regeneration as determinants of individual species and community parameters. We used a pseudoexperimental before-after-control-impact approach to study the changes in the bird community during the first three springs after fire.
3. Most bird species were affected by salvage logging (measured by snag density), a relationship that was positive for forest birds and negative for open-habitat species. Species linked to shrub and edge habitats were positively affected by vegetation regrowth. Bird communities in logged areas held more species of conservation concern than those in unlogged areas. Species richness and overall density tended to decrease from the first to the second year after fire and to increase from the second to the third.
4. Salvage logging benefits a number of open-habitat species, although its effect on bird conservation depends strongly on the specific threats that birds face in each region or ecosystem.
5. Synthesis and applications. In the Mediterranean Basin, some postfire salvage logging of pine forests can be compatible with bird conservation. We recommend that managers retain some standing dead trees during logging operations and that logged forest is interspersed with unlogged stands. This will provide suitable habitat for the widest range of species.