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Fuel management effects on wild bird communities in California chaparral: How mastication is changing populations and may be increasing Lyme Disease

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California chaparral is a hugely diverse plant community with many endemic species. Because of its fire activity and fire-proneness, chaparral is often removed from areas where people live in order to risk to lives and property. Beyond the direct consequences to wildlife of this vegetation removal, little is known about how wildlife species respond to different management techniques. Furthermore, almost nothing is known about how these changes in wildlife community may affect human health and well-being. In this webinar, I will be talking about two separate studies, both conducted at Hopland Research and Extension Center (Ukiah, CA), and both focusing on the bird community. The first, a fire and fire-surrogates study, measures the impacts of fire management treatment type and season on bird communities, and shows that mastication reduces the bird community to a small subset compared to what is present in the control areas. The second study widely tested birds for incidences of infection with Borrelia bacteria, one species of which causes Lyme Disease in humans. I link these two studies and show that fire management activities in chaparral that rely on mastication may be increasing the risk of Lyme Disease in California. 

About the Presenter:

Erica Newman is a PhD candidate in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies wild bird and plant communities, natural disturbance regimes, and how anthropogenic change interacts with all of these. Her research spans multiple systems including high Sierra Nevada meadows, Bishop Pine forests, and California chaparral as case examples of how natural disturbance and anthropogenic change affect community structure metrics, such as species diversity, rarity, and the interactions among affected species.

More Links & Resources:

Borrelia burgdorferi Sensu Lato Spirochetes in Wild Birds in Northwestern California: Associations with Ecological Factors, Bird Behavior and Tick Infestation (free, open-access paper in PLOS ONE)

Bird species migrations across the Western Hemisphere (animated):

Range maps, songs, and life history information about North American birds (Lawrence's Goldfinch example):

More information about Lyme Disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

More information about chaparral from the California Chaparral Institute:

Climate and fire predictions for California in the coming decades; tools and data from Cal-Adapt:

 Erica Newman's academic website:

Erica Newman's other publications available for download through ResearchGate: