Forested buffer strips are typically prescribed around water bodies during forest harvesting operations to minimize effects on aquatic communities and to maintain fish and wildlife habitat. It has been argued that the systematic application of these buffer strips in the boreal forest results in the creation of an unnatural distribution of linear patterns of older-growth forest which is not consistent with the current emulating natural disturbance paradigm. We conducted a multi-year, temporally and spatially controlled, manipulative experiment to investigate the short-term impacts of an alternative practice of riparian partial harvesting and upland clear cutting on breeding and migrating forest birds. Effects on breeding bird community composition were assessed using a modified point counting method. Effects of harvesting on habitat utilization during fall migration were assessed by mist-netting. Breeding bird communities changed significantly post-harvest, but riparian communities diverged less from the pre-harvest condition than upland communities. Populations of early successional/edge species increased post-harvest and forest dependent species declined. Population declines tended to be smaller in the riparian partial cuts than in the upland clear cuts. Capture rates and movement patterns of fall migrants were unaffected by riparian partial harvesting, but catches of Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina
), Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla
), Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum
) and Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata
) increased in upland clear cuts. Our results suggest that partial harvesting in riparian reserves may be a viable management option that accommodates the needs of forest dependent birds.
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