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Bird feeders as a tool to connect people with nature, and characteristics of ponderosa pine associated with woodpecker foraging use

Hammond, Ruby Lanneau (2021) Bird feeders as a tool to connect people with nature, and characteristics of ponderosa pine associated with woodpecker foraging use. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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My dissertation consisted of two, disjunct research topics. The first was a social science study that aimed to investigate the efficacy of using bird feeders as a method to increase connection to nature in adults and children. The second research area broadly compiled existing literature on tree-scale foraging ecology of bark-foraging insectivorous woodpeckers in North America, and based on knowledge gained from the literature review aimed to conduct primary research on that group of woodpeckers to fill some of the gaps in our knowledge on woodpecker foraging ecology. The following abstract summarizes my research on these two distinct topics in separate paragraphs. Given that connection to nature is positively correlated with pro-environmental behavior, strategies to facilitate human-nature interactions are necessary to mitigate the anthropogenic effects of urbanization to the environment. I assessed the efficacy of bird feeders as tools to connect people to nature in sixth graders and parents. I visited 19 participating classes assigned as experimental (i.e., I gave them feeders and bird seed) and control (i.e., I did not give them feeders and seed) groups. Participants who entered the study having previously-owned feeders had significantly greater baseline connections to nature compared to those who did not. Pre- and post-test assessments suggested that over the course of a one-month intervention, adults who did not previously own a feeder in experimental classrooms experienced significant increases in connections to nature compared to those in control classrooms, while those who previously-owned feeders did not. However, students’ connections to nature did not change. Parents who became new owners of feeders experienced similar, or greater, percent increases in connection to nature compared to some studies of tourism, zoo, and museum experiences, suggesting feeders may be as effective as interventions that are logistically and financially difficult to employ across diverse communities. Woodpeckers are important forest species because they prey on tree pests and act as keystone species by creating breeding and shelter sites for numerous vertebrate and invertebrate taxa. With global estimates of forest loss due to natural and anthropogenic factors occurring at a rate of 0.6% per year, it is becoming increasingly important to understand woodpecker ecology because preservation and restoration of woodpecker habitat should have cascading positive outcomes for species that depend on their cavities, as they are often considered umbrella and indicator species. In my second chapter, I reviewed literature on the foraging ecology of bark-foraging insectivorous woodpeckers in North America to synthesize the strengths and weaknesses of our knowledge regarding associations of woodpecker foraging tree use and tree-scale characteristics. My literature review revealed that studies of woodpecker foraging ecology at the tree-scale in tropical North America were lacking, and there were also few studies in the northernmost portion of North America. Likewise, species with ranges in the tropics were unknown, or poorly-known, in the published literature. More studies existed in forests that had been altered by anthropogenic and natural alterations (e.g., wildfire, pest outbreaks, logging), and studies of woodpecker foraging associations with tree-scale characteristics of dead trees were common, while studies of live tree characteristics were rare. Therefore, my third chapter investigated associations between tree-scale foraging patterns of a bark-foraging insectivorous woodpecker species, the hairy woodpecker (Dryobates villosus), and both anatomical (bark thickness and hardness) and physiological (phloem thickness, oleoresin exudation and viscosity) characteristics of live and healthy trees, in addition to investigating if soil type influenced both woodpecker tree use and the variability of tree-scale characteristics that were related to woodpecker foraging. The major findings of the third chapter were 1) trees growing on geologically young, coarse soils that were characterized by poor water and nutrient retention were 10 times more likely to be foraged on by a woodpecker compared to trees growing on older, finer soils, 2) tree use by foraging woodpeckers and their wood-boring prey was negatively associated with bark thickness and hardness, but there were no relationships with physiological tree characteristics, 3) tree growth rate was generally greater at coarse soil sites, suggesting that although trees there were growing on poor-quality soils, high tree stress was not driving the strong pattern of tree use by woodpeckers and their prey at those sites.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: connection to nature; foraging ecology; forest ecology; forest management; tree characteristics; woodpecker; bird feeders
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences > Biological Sciences
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2022 16:49
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2022 16:49
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5769

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