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 | EurekAlert!
Innovative grilling technique improves air quality
01.07.2020 | Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP
Traffic density, wind and air stratification influence the load of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide
26.06.2020 | Leibniz-Institut für Troposphärenforschung e. V.
New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices
Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...
Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class
In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...
Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.
Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....
Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.
Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...
A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...
07.07.2020 | Event News
02.07.2020 | Event News
19.05.2020 | Event News
09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy
09.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering
09.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy