Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Satellite Data Shows that Kirtland’s Warblers Prefer Forests After Fire

Kirtland’s warblers are an endangered species of lightweight little birds with bright yellow-bellies that summer in North America and winter in the Bahamas.

But be it their winter or their summer home, a new study using data from NASA-built Landsat satellites shows that these warblers like to live in young forests and often forests that have been on fire.

The Kirtland's Warbler spends its summers in North America and its winters in the Bahamas. Credit: Dave Currie

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Kirtland’s warblers as endangered in 1967 after a startling decline of over 50 percent in less than ten years. The little birds prefer to nest on the ground amidst large areas of relatively young jack pine trees, and these trees need fire to reproduce. When fires were dramatically suppressed in the 1960s across northern Michigan, Wisconsin and southern Ontario, the warbler’s habitat became scarce.

After an intensive recovery program that focused both on combating invasive cowbirds and managing controlled forest burns, and thus creating warbler-friendly jack pine habitat, the Kirtland’s warbler made an impressive comeback. By 1995 their numbers had tripled.

But those extensive efforts only occurred at the Kirtland’s summer home, so a team of researchers reviewed the conditions of many a warbler’s winter home – the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. They did this by painstakingly putting together Landsat data to create cloud-free images of the isle’s forest cover.

Tropical islands typically have cloud cover, so the team compiled many Landsat images with scenes where the clouds were in different places into one image of clear forest, said Eileen Helmer. She’s a member of the Landsat Science Team for the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

The researchers did this not just once, but ten times, obtaining a record that spans a 30-year time period. According to Helmer, this allows them to tell how long it had been since the forest was last disturbed by fire, crops or grazing.

What the scientists discovered was that, like in their summer homes, Kirtland’s warblers are found in young forests. On Eleuthera, these forests only occur after a disturbance of some sort – like fire, clearing for agriculture, or grazing. And grazing turns out to be a disturbance the warbler can live with just fine. Old forest whose underbrush has been munched on by goats provides the most suitable habitat for warblers, said Helmer.

The results, published in this month's issue of Biotropica, suggest that goat grazing stunts the forest regrowth, so that the tree height doesn’t exceed the height beyond which important fruit-bearing forage tree species are shaded out by taller woody species. Helmer said that understanding how and where the warbler's winter habitat occurs will help conservation efforts in the Bahamas.

Helmer said that a unique feature of warbler’s winter habitat is that the age of this forest correlates very strongly with its height. By tracking the age of the forest after a disturbance, she and her team determined forest height at different times. Helmer said they used image time-series data from Landsat and the Advance Land Imager (ALI) sensor aboard the Earth-Observing 1 (EO-1) satellite to essentially ‘stack’ many images over time. This project is the first time that forest height profiles have been successfully mapped by satellite imagery at a medium resolution that shows a broad area but still resolves human impacts on the land. As in the warbler case, understanding how a forest is put together in three dimensions is important for ecological studies. Helmer adds that this tool may be applied elsewhere around the world due to Landsat’s global coverage and policy of free access to data. Helmer will discuss mapping forest height at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco on Friday, Dec. 9.

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth's changing landscapes for the benefit of all.

For more information on Landsat, visit: Aries Keck
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Rachel Headley
United Stated Geological Survey, EROS
Cell 605-360-3613

Aries Keck | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Bahamas FIRE Geological Geological Survey Landsat Landsat satellites Warblers pine tree satellites

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>