Variable green tree retention (GTR) forest harvesting is increasingly being used as a model to design spatial pattern and structure of timber harvests in the Boreal forests of Alberta. However, little is known about its effects on obligate forest specialist like the Boreal owl (Aegolius funereus) and Northern Saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus). To address this question, we first used Autonomous Recording Units to investigate the distribution of these owls and in particular the distribution of primary cavity providers like the Pileated woodpecker (Hylatomus pileatus) and Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) across the Boreal Natural Region of Alberta to ask whether primary cavity providers affect the occurrence of owls. Second, we investigated the nesting preference and reproductive success of owls in forest stands impacted by GTR by establishing and maintaining a 164 nestboxes at the EMEND Project site in northwest Alberta. Being able to identify key biotic and abiotic characteristics that affect owl occurrence and provide breeding habitat will aid in future planning (design) of resource extraction and improve harvest patterns so that cavity nesting owls are maintained in these managed landscapes.
Co-supervised by Dr. John Spence.