The red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) is an endangered species whose population is restricted primarily to public lands, namely national forests, military installations, and national wildlife refuges. Military installations are gaining recognition as a valuable resource in the recovery of threatened and endangered species. Such a close association has led to conflict between conservation requirements and the military’s mission of maintaining a high degree of combat readiness. Cost-effective methods are needed to monitor and evaluate the effects of military training noise on these species in order to develop more effective planning and management strategies. Response to noise stimuli, such as physiological and behavioral responses and impacts on reproductive success, can be used to support new protocols and guidelines to protect threatened and endangered species from the impacts of military noise as well as to minimize the restrictions placed on military training activities.
The goal of this project is to measure the impact of military training noise (i.e., artillery, small arms, helicopter, and maneuver noise) on the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Dose-response relationships are measured by recording the in-situ response of the red-cockaded woodpecker to actual military training noise events. Proximate response measures include the following: flushing from nest, recovery time, nest attentiveness, and provisioning of young. Proximate responses are correlated with individual fitness measures such as reproductive success data acquired by this project and other leveraged efforts. Noise levels are characterized by metrics appropriate for each type of noise. This encompasses frequency weighting that includes only noise energy at frequencies that the woodpecker can hear. Hearing threshold audiograms for a closely-related species are used to estimate the hearing ability of the red-cockaded woodpecker. These data are integrated into population models to assess impacts at the population level.
Three seasons of noise and behavioral data were collected to develop dose-response relationships and to assess noise impacts on individual fitness and at the population level. Over ten thousand hours of video surveillance tapes were obtained at disturbed and undisturbed sites. Data collected from these sites substantially augments the existing data especially for large caliber fire at close proximity to the source of the noise. Correlation of noise level with RCW productivity was examined using noise contours generated by the BNOISE and SARNAM noise models and training data supplied by Fort Stewart. Data indicate that training noise has no significant impact on the reproductive success of the red-cockaded woodpecker.
Project results will support effective management strategies for threatened and endangered species and military training operations. This capability will alleviate impacts on training operations, minimize litigation and delays, and preserve rare natural resources.