Large scale forest restoration treatments are currently underway to restore ponderosa pine forest ecosystem function on Camp Navajo. Forest restoration treatments involve removing accumulated leaf litter and reducing density of over-stocked forest stands through prescribed burning and mechanical thinning techniques. Thinning and burning operations may alter species richness and density of certain wildlife species. The affects of forest restoration on the tassel-eared squirrel (Sciurus aberti), a key species of the ponderosa pine ecosystem, are poorly understood. This project will determine the abundance of Abert's Squirrels within forest restoration treatments and eventually compare their abundance between restored and unrestored forest areas.
The study is restricted to the western portion of Camp Navajo (approximately 26 km2) where three different treatments are being applied to the forests: thinning only, thinning and burning, and burning only. Camp Navajo is located on the Coconino plateau about 10 miles west of Flagstaff, Arizona.
We use standardized feed sign counts to estimate the density of tassel-eared squirrels. The feed sign plots encompass an area of 166 acres, consisting of 256 survey points. Each survey plot consists of 4 - 1225 yard parallel transects spaced 219 yards apart and contain 64 survey points each. Each survey point is spaced 19 yards apart. Presence or absence of Abert's Squirrel feed sign (clippings, truffle digs, and eaten cones), within 10 square feet, is determined at each point. There are 20 survey plots within the proposed forest treatment area. A permanent marker (metal bar with ID tag) is placed at the starting point of each transect and its UTM coordinate is recorded. Surveys have been conducted every spring since 2002, before restoration treatments began, and will continue, so data will be available before, during, and after restoration treatments.
Restoration treatments may affect wildlife communities living in the ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest. Restoration is expected to increase biodiversity and productivity at the herbaceous layer, which is expected to benefit some species of wildlife. Scientific data are needed to reveal the effects of ecosystem restoration on Abert's squirrels within the ponderosa pine community before decisions are made to restore large areas.
For more information contact:
Michael Ingraldi, Ph.D.,
Arizona Game and Fish Department,
2221 W. Greenway Road, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000.
Phone: (928) 523-5625 E-mail: mingraldi@cybertrails