Tree community shifts and acorn woodpecker population increases over three decades in a California oak woodland

Devin E. McMahon, Ian S. Pearse, Walter D. Koenig, Eric Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Forest communities change in response to shifting climate, changing land use, and species introductions, as well as the interactions of established species. We surveyed the oak (Quercus L. spp.) community and Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus (Swainson, 1827)) population within 230 ha of oak forest and savanna in central coastal California in 1979 and 2013 to assess demographic changes over a timescale relevant to mature oaks. Overall, percent canopy cover increased, particularly where coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia Née) and California black oak (Quercus kelloggii Newberry) were most abundant. The density of stems of Q. agrifolia increased, whereas the density of stems and basal area of valley oak (Quercus lobata Née), a species favored by Acorn Woodpeckers, decreased. The number of Acorn Woodpeckers and woodpecker territories increased over the study period, coincident with the increase in percent canopy cover; however, these increases were not related spatially. Instead, increased acorn production associated with broad-scale canopy growth likely more than compensated for the loss of Q. lobata. Our findings suggest that forests in this area are becoming denser and savanna is becoming more open, which so far has supported an increase in the Acorn Woodpecker population, despite potential habitat loss if Q. lobata continues to decline.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1113--1120
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume45
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • INHS

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