Small Mammal Responses to Thinning and Wildfire in Ponderosa Pine-Dominated Forests of the Southwestern United States

Authors

  • SARAH J. CONVERSE,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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    • Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD 20708, USA

  • GARY C. WHITE,

    1. Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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  • WILLIAM M. BLOCK

    1. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA
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sconverse@usgs.gov

Abstract

Abstract: As part of a national experiment, the Fire and Fire Surrogate Project, we evaluated the effects of forest thinning on small mammal population densities and total small mammal biomass in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)–dominated forests at 2 study areas in northern Arizona and northern New Mexico, USA. We also evaluated the effects of wildfire on small mammal population densities and biomass after a wildfire burned a portion of one study area. Our statistical methods consisted of estimation of population densities in combined analyses across space and time, followed by a weighted regression analysis of treatment effects on densities. We hypothesized that habitat change postdisturbance would be the critical determinant of population responses to thinning and wildfire within 1 year of disturbances. Our results largely supported this hypothesis, as we documented predicted positive responses to thinning for deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), gray-collared chipmunks (Tamias cinereicollis), and least chipmunks (T. minimus). We also observed predicted positive responses to wildfire for deer mice, although our results did not support predicted negative responses to wildfire for least chipmunks. Total small mammal biomass generally increased following both thinning and wildfire. Our results suggest that fuel reduction treatments will have the largest positive impact on small mammal populations in areas where tree densities are especially high.

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