Pyrodiversity matters: Wild turkey habitat selection in a fire managed landscape

Christine Parker, Wendy M. Schelsky, Luke Garver, Jeffrey P. Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Throughout North America, prescribed fire is becoming a common technique to manage natural landscapes. How this management tool affects wildlife remains poorly understood by land managers and biologists. Wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are an economically important upland game bird that thrive in forests with a diverse understory structure. Diversity in forest understory structure and composition can be achieved using prescribed fire. However, the influence of prescribed fire on turkey habitat selection during the reproductive period is not clear. We sought to answer two questions: 1) Does prescribed fire influence habitat selection among wild turkey hens? and 2) How does hen habitat selection respond to differing burn regimes? During 2015–2017 we monitored the habitat use of 47 hens in south-central Illinois, USA using micro-GPS tags. We first compared hen use of burned and non-burned forest to determine if prescribed fire, in general, influenced hen habitat selection. We then evaluated hen use of burned forest areas to determine if time-since-burn (number of years) and burn frequency (number of burns within four years) influenced hen habitat selection. Both questions were examined at multiple scales of inference including individual-annual range, individual-reproductive period range, and individual-reproductive period core area. When compared to burned forest, non-burned forest typically comprised most of hen annual and seasonal ranges, yet burned and non-burned forest were generally used by hens in proportion to their availability. Within annual and reproductive period ranges, hens used a diverse array of burned forest areas that varied in time-since-burn and burn frequency. In response to these burn regimes, hens exhibited habitat selection that varied among the spatiotemporal levels that we investigated. Time-since-burn influenced habitat selection at each level investigated but did not influence habitat selection during all reproductive periods. Burn frequency influenced habitat selection only within post-nesting home ranges and incubation core areas, and the areas that hens used more differed between the reproductive periods. Our results highlight the influence of prescribed fire on wild turkeys, and the importance of considering both temporal and spatial scales in analyses of habitat selection. Furthermore, the diversity of burned and non-burned forest used by hens across spatiotemporal scales emphasizes the importance of pyrodiversity for wildlife in a forested landscape, including the retention of non-burned forests as part of the forest mosaic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number119227
JournalForest Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Brownian bridge movement model
  • Habitat selection
  • Prescribed fire
  • Pyrodiversity
  • Wild turkey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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