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Tag: Partners

What exactly is a bird’s eye view of the forest?

This post first appeared on Rogue Forest Partners.

At Klamath Bird Observatory, we frequently tell the story of birds knowing our forests better than we do. Using birds as indicators, we’ve applied our science across the diverse and beautiful Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion to understand the ecological change from a bird’s perspective and used that information to inform conservation planning and restoration design. But what exactly is a bird’s eye view of the forest? When we see a forest, we see trees, shrubs, and grasses; we notice how dense the vegetation grows and how old the trees are. Birds see all of these things too, but individual species also hone in on specific features—snags, downed logs, openness or tightness of a canopy, the size of the patch of forest, or how close it is to a stream. We already use much of what we know about birds and habitats in conservation planning. Our work with the Rogue Forest Partners has provided a recent application for using birds as indicators in planning for the future health of our forests.

With new statistical tools, we can more effectively picture what a bird “sees” and how habitat is distributed across a landscape. Distribution modeling is the process by which a dataset of bird presences and absences from multiple surveys is paired with data about the landscape where the surveys took place. We get data about the landscape from satellite imagery known as Landsat, which measures and reports the reflected light, like a photo, but using more wavelengths, including some invisible to the human eye. “Species-centered” distribution modeling (named for its focus on what the bird sees in the landscape, instead of how people quantify it into vegetation types) uses the information from the surveys and data from the Landsat images to determine what features of the landscape best predict whether a species will be found there.

Unlike simply measuring bird presence directly with a survey, the species-centered models allow researchers to study larger areas and glean more information about where the potential habitat for a species is most likely to occur, even in places where surveys haven’t taken place or where the forest habitat features have not been quantified.

Once the models are created, they have a multitude of applications. A recent study by KBO scientists in partnership with OSU used species-centered distribution models “stacked” on top of one another to understand the effects of habitat fragmentation on bird diversity.

Species-centered distribution models can also help us understand the broad landscape-scale impact of disturbances such as wildfire or restoration treatments such as prescribed thinning and burning.

Black-Throated Gray Warbler Photo (c) Frank Lospalluto

Since data from Landsat images are available every year, KBO scientists are beginning to test how species-centered distribution models can be applied to assess the effects of restoration treatments on bird habitat over time. For example, we have recently applied distribution models to examine a natural disturbance and recent restoration work in the Rogue Basin. The Quartz Fire, which burned in 2001, was studied using point count data in 2015. Using species distribution models and Landsat from the years before and after the fire, we were able to not only confirm results from our bird survey analysis, but also extract more data points to further our work examining differences among bird communities in low, moderate, and high severity burned areas following the fire.

In the Ashland Watershed, we used the models for 41 songbird species and Landsat imagery from 2004 (before any work took place) and 2019 (after the treatments were completed), we were able to quantify how the bird community changed following those treatments and evaluate whether restoration goals were achieved.

The ability to quantify changes in forest conditions using models, instead of solely monitoring birds directly at a given location, offers efficiencies for expanding the scope and scale of existing bird monitoring efforts to assess ecological change in the places we study. Our ongoing collaboration with Rogue Forest Partners provides an immediate, relevant application for the models, as restorative forest treatments are planned for the next decade to make forests more resilient and communities safe from wildfire. We monitor some of these treatments with bird surveys, but models provide another way to quantify that change across large landscapes that would be financially and logistically challenging to survey directly.

Over time, we can also measure how the forest grows back year after year and assess how bird habitat develops. For example, are the indicator species we expected to see following treatments likely to be there now? Are some species likely to occur in some areas that received a particular ecological thinning prescription more than other areas with a different approach? Does the presence of a species depend on how much of the landscape was treated? By asking these kinds of questions, distribution models provide “snapshots” of the ongoing restoration work that is vitally needed in our forests, help biologists assess habitat change over time, and inform the design and implementation of future restoration treatments.

Contributed by KBO’s Caitlyn Gillespie

Educational Videos from Vesper Meadow

Oregon Vesper Sparrow (c) Frank Lospalluto

Klamath Bird Observatory has been working with Vesper Meadow to engage and educate the community on the Oregon Vesper Sparrow. Vesper Meadow is a former agricultural pasture that is being reclaimed by a community-powered restoration effort. They developed two educational videos on the work that is being done to help this imperiled species by KBO and other partners. Click here to learn more about KBO’s work on the Oregon Vesper Sparrow.

Learn how scientists are monitoring the Oregon Vesper Sparrow, an imperiled species estimated to be down to around 2,000 individuals. See how nests are found, how fledglings are monitored, and how annual survival is observed using Oregon’s first MOTUS network, currently in place at Vesper Meadow. See how the ongoing data collection and partnerships with scientists with the Klamath Bird Observatory help inform our restoration efforts to help save this species from extinction. Support for this video comes from the Oregon Birding Association.

Research to Save the Imperiled Oregon Vesper Sparrow


Photo (c) Vesper Meadow

Learn how native plants provide prime nesting habitat for the Oregon Vesper Sparrow, an imperiled species whose population is down to around 2,000 individuals and includes over 80 nesting pairs found so far at Vesper Meadow. See how volunteers engage in converting areas of Vesper Meadow from invasive to native plants in an attempt to provide more nesting habitat and food for this namesake species. Hear from our partners in restoration at The Understory Initiative who are helping to monitor how creek restoration efforts affect water flows and plant populations where Oregon Vesper Sparrows build nests and raise their young.

Habitat Restoration for the Imperiled Oregon Vesper Sparrow 




Bird Monitoring in the Upper Applegate Watershed

This post first appeared on Rogue Forest Partners.

The Upper Applegate Watershed, located south of Ruch in Jackson County, Oregon, is a 52,000-acre USFS and BLM planning area among the region’s highest priorities for forest restoration. As part of a new project led by Rogue Forest Partners, over 18,000 acres of forested lands in the Upper Applegate Watershed are receiving restoration treatments over the next few years. Project benefits include improved forest health, protecting the surrounding communities from wildfire, and supporting climate resilience to mixed conifer forests that host many species of plants and animals.

To help monitor the ongoing restoration in the Upper Applegate Watershed, Rogue Forest Partners are working with Klamath Bird Observatory to study how the bird community responds to the forest restoration. KBO has a successful track record of studying the effects of restoration actions on bird communities, for example, oak restoration and riparian restoration. Similar to this previous work, KBO has designed a scientific study that uses both treatment and control areas (i.e., areas of the forest where there will be no management) to measure how the restoration treatments influence bird communities.

Birds are excellent indicators of forest structure and plant composition changes because they respond quickly to change, have known habitat associations in western forests, and are relatively cost-effective to monitor. In the case of the restoration activities in the Upper Applegate Watershed, scientists can track the presence and abundance of species such as Lazuli Bunting and Nashville Warbler to monitor increases in understory habitat. They can also observe other species such as Pacific-slope Flycatcher or Black-throated Gray Warbler to assess the increased proportion of large trees and canopy cover of hardwood species in mixed-conifer deciduous forest.

In 2021, KBO scientists completed bird surveys at treatment and control points within the Upper Applegate Watershed before any restoration work started on the ground. The surveys documented over 50 species. Once treatments conclude, KBO will go back to monitor these same points in a few years to see how the bird communities have changed.

Knowing how birds respond to treatments will help scientists better understand the overall effect of the restoration on achieving improved forest health and resilience and serve as a valuable tool for planning future projects in the area.

The Rogue Forest Partners are working with communities, government agencies, and other organizations to plan much-needed forest restoration in strategic locations to transform forested landscapes of the Rogue Basin in the next decade. Bird monitoring can help inform these projects to confirm that treatments are accomplishing the restoration goals or adjust as needed to provide healthy, resilient forest habitat for wildlife and people for decades to come.

Contributed by KBO’s Caitlyn Gillespie

Recently published paper describes meaningful ecological units (i.e., Management Domains) for collaborative conservation in the Klamath Region


August 14, 2015 – For Immediate Release

Contact: John Alexander, jda[AT], 541-890-7067

Patterns of plant, amphibian, mammal, and bird distribution have been used to identify ecological boundaries in the Klamath Region of southern Oregon and northern California, one of the most biophysically complex areas in North America. These patterns are described in a paper, recently published in the Natural Areas Journal, written by collaborators from the National Park Service, US Geological Survey, Klamath Bird Observatory, and other organizations. “This paper represents our first collaborative effort to link biogeography with protected areas management in the Klamath Region,” says the papers lead author, Daniel Sarr (formerly with the National Park Service and now working with the US Geological Survey). John Alexander, Klamath Bird Observatory’s Executive Director and a co-author on the paper added, “In the Klamath Region, natural resource managers are challenged with managing the complex array of environments that characterize the area. In this paper, we describe patterns that help delineate meaningful ecological units, or Management Domains, that are intended to advance collaborative natural resource management in the Region.”

The distributions of species described in the paper illustrate conceptual and spatial domains for natural areas management that provide an eco-regional framework for collaborative conservation. The paper describes a Maritime Management Domain in the western portion of the Region that is similar to other coastal areas. To the east, a Great Basin Domain that is similar to other Great Basin environments is also described. While conservation management approaches that have been tested in other areas of the west coast and Great Basin may be effectively applied in these two Domains, a third Eastern Klamath Management Domain, at the core of the Klamath Region, is more unique and presents novel management challenges. This third Domain has higher species richness and endemism than other environments in the western United States that are climatically similar, such as the southwest. Because the area is so unique, management approaches that have been successful in other areas may not be as easily applied in the Eastern Klamath Management Domain. Lead author Daniel Sarr explains further, “Because of its exceptional spatial complexity, it has not always been clear how management concepts and approaches developed in other areas of the West can best be used in the Klamath Region.”


However, the species that characterize the Eastern Klamath Domain may be the key to the conservation and management of natural areas in the Klamath Region. The Klamath Region will likely serve as an important refugia for a number of at-risk species that may become more threatened by climate change. Therefore management intended to help the Region’s unique array of native species persist into an uncertain future is becoming a priority. This paper presents an improved understanding of how such species are distributed across the region which, in combination with knowledge about the species’ habitat needs, can help inform design of the novel management approaches that may be needed in the Klamath Region.

Dr. Sarr concluded the following about these research results, “This new paper represents ongoing efforts to identify spatially explicit management domains and serves as a step forward. The work will undoubtedly be refined through ongoing observational science efforts being conducted by the Klamath Bird Observatory, National Park Service, and other regional partners.”

To access a copy of this new publication, Comparing Ecoregional Classifications for Natural Areas Management in the Klamath Region, USA in the Natural Areas Journal contact John Alexander (jda[AT], 541-890-7067) or click here.  Click here to view a PDF of this Science Brief and News Release.


About Klamath Bird Observatory

Klamath Bird Observatory, based in Ashland, Oregon, advances bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. Klamath Bird Observatory is fueled by partner-driven science programs. We use birds as indicators of the healthy and resilient ecosystems on which we all depend. Our science involves three integrated aspects: 1) long-term monitoring, 2) theoretical research, and 3) applied ecology. We bring our results to bear through science delivery involving partnership driven engagement in conservation planning, informing the critical decisions being made today that will have lasting influences on the health of our natural resources well into the future.

Klamath Bird Observatory’s award-winning model was developed in the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion. We now apply this model more broadly throughout the Pacific Northwest. Plus, our intensive professional education and international capacity building programs expand our influence into Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.