Cooperative Research Units
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Assessing the effects of the National Park Service prescribed fire program on the breeding bird community in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


September 2011 - November 2014


The southwestern corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM), with its dry pine and oak-hickory forests, steep slopes drained by small tumbling creeks, scattered old home sites, wetlands, and extensive fire history, provides diverse habitat for a variety of birds. Many of these species are restricted to habitats declining elsewhere and limited in the park by past fire management practices. Prescribed fire has been introduced in the past 20 years, as well as a policy allowing naturally caused fires to burn. The resulting mosaic of mature trees, dense regeneration and open savannah-like forest has changed the landscape significantly. This area was the last known habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker; several other bird species whose habitat is improved by fire are likely to be present. Characterizing the habitat and identifying breeding birds will guide the park in fire management decisions and help improve habitat. This project will provide fundamental information to evaluate possible reintroduction of red-cockaded woodpeckers and target habitat management for other bird species of concern.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 95

Masters Students: 240

Phd Students: 143

Post Docs: 52

University Staff: 245

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 702

Scientific Publications: 1948

Presentations: 4253



Funding Agencies

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey