The Appalachian Region is known for its extensive tracts of mature hardwood forest and high biodiversity, including that of songbirds. The region is a stronghold for the cerulean warbler, containing about 75 percent of the population. But the bird is a species of high conservation concern due in part to an estimated 70 percent population decline over the last 40 years. Several factors contribute to its decline, including loss and degradation of forested habitat in its summer breeding range as well as its winter range in Central and South America. Now, many natural resource and conservation organizations are working together to research the status of the population and preferred habitat locally and regionally and identify current threats in order to implement active forest management to create a sustainable population for Ceruleans in the Appalachians and beyond.
A recently completed six-year study by the West Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, in collaboration with the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture, the Cerulean Warbler Technical Group, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and researchers and managers from additional partners identified forest management techniques that can enhance Cerulean Warbler habitat. The recent study quantified Cerulean Warbler abundance, density, nesting success, return rates and habitat relations. The research helped to identify ways that wildlife and forest managers can use silviculture to improve breeding habitat for the Warbler and other avian species. Partners also developed Habitat Management Guidelines that several state agencies are now implementing on state lands in the Appalachian Region.
A follow-up study to evaluate the implementation phase of forest habitat management for Cerulean Warblers is now ongoing, with researchers studying Cerulean Warbler and associated species’ responses within the context of applied forest management under a broader range of conditions than the original study. The follow-up study is also evaluating the response of Cerulean Warblers and associated species to a number of different timber harvests which are often used to provide a variety of wildlife habitat conditions within close proximity.
Implementation of forest habitat management for Cerulean Warblers is poised to expand throughout the central Appalachian Region. The AMJV Partnership recently received an $8 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) award for their Cerulean Warbler Appalachian Forestland Enhancement Project to enhance cerulean warbler and associated species habitat on private lands in the Appalachian region by implementing the Habitat Management Guidelines. Much of the existing cerulean warbler population occurs on private lands, so conservation of this species is dependent on working with private landowners in the region. Additional efforts for cerulean warbler habitat management are underway on mined lands, where the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) is reforesting these sites to provide high quality habitat for native forest wildlife.
All of these efforts are working towards improving the quality and quantity of forest habitat for cerulean warblers and the many other species that depend upon forested landscapes in the Appalachian region. For more information visit: http://amjv.org/index.php/news/606