Effects of Timber Harvesting and Plantation Development on Cavity-nesting Birds in New Brunswick


  • Stephen J. Woodley Ecological Integrity Branch, Parks Canada, 25 Eddy Street, Hull, Québec K1A 0M5
  • Greg Johnson Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1
  • Bill Freedman Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1
  • David A. Kirk Aquila Applied Ecologists, C.P. 87, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario K0A 1K0




Acadian forest, cavity-nesting birds, conifer plantations, critical habitat, forestry, management recommendations, nest boxes, New Brunswick


We studied the abundance of cavity-nesting birds in forestry-related habitats in a region of Acadian forest in New Brunswick. We examined five reference stands of natural forest, a chronosequence of conifer plantations up to 19 years old (the oldest in the study area), two selectively harvested stands, and a 30-year-old naturally regenerated clear-cut. The species richness and abundance of cavity-nesting birds were higher in reference forest (average 10.0 species per stand; 5.3 territories per 10 ha) than in plantations (2.3/stand; 1.0/10 ha), selectively harvested stands (7.0/stand; 3.8/10 ha), or the naturally regenerated clear-cut (5.0/stand; 2.5/10 ha). A cluster analysis segregated the “community” of cavity-nesting birds of natural forest from those of other treatments. Of the various harvested stands and plantations, five with a relatively large number of residual snags clustered similarly in the cluster analysis, while those with no or very few snags also clustered together. We used arrays of nest boxes (12 per stand) to examine whether the availability of cavities was limiting the use of habitats otherwise suitable for foraging by cavity-dependent species. Nest-box use for nesting and roosting was much higher in the seven plantations examined (average 4.0/10 ha for nesting and 2.9/10 ha for roosting) than in three reference stands (each 0.3/10 ha), suggesting that the plantations were deficient in this critical-habitat element. Our results suggest that certain mitigations, such as leaving residual snags and living cavity-trees, would help maintain populations of some cavity-dependent birds in clear-cuts and plantations. However, some cavity-dependent species might not be accommodated by these mitigations and are potentially at risk in intensively managed areas, unless landscape-scale management plans ensure the survival of sufficient areas of older mixed-wood forest.