Determining if Managed Wildfires and Prescribed Fires Conserve Critical Habitat Structure for Pacific Fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada

Research Sponsored By: USDI National Park Service
Principal Investigator: L. Monika Moskal
Project Description
This is a collaborative project between the National Park Service and the University of Washington to understand whether wildfire and prescribed fire conserve important, forest structure elements of Pacific fisher habitat in the southern Sierra Nevada. The Pacific fisher (Martes pennanti pacifica) is a rare, reclusive forest carnivore that occupies the most structurally complex patches of mixed conifer forests in the southern Sierra Nevada. Previous research developed a model of fisher occupancy based on presence/absence data that predicts high probability of occurrence of fishers in portions of Yosemite National Park (YOSE), Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI), and the National Forests of the Southern Sierra Nevada. This project will combine LiDAR remote sensing data (from YOSE and the Kings River Fisher Project) and fisher habitat use data to examine crucial fire management questions. Project objectives include determining key structural elements of fisher habitat at multiple spatial scales for YOSE, and if fire severity–vegetation interactions retain or promote fisher habitat structural elements. To achieve these, a fire atlas will be assembled and normalized for the project study area, LiDAR metric calculations will be used to describe forest structural attributes and determine key structural elements of fisher habitat, and fisher habitat correlation modeling will be conducted to reveal relationships among fire-vegetation attributes. The results will inform how fire modifies the forest under different environmental conditions and whether Pacific fisher habitat is conserved through landscape scale management of wildfires and through the use of prescribed fire.