Regional impacts of pinyon and juniper tree removal on insect, bat, and reptile communities

Removal of pinyon and juniper trees

As part of a coordinated effort for managing Greater sage-grouse habitat, thousands of acres of pinyon and juniper woodlands (PJ) have been targeted for removal on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). These efforts provide a unique opportunity to study the biodiversity impacts of PJ removal across the Great Basin.

While it is clear that expanding conifer canopies result in substantial decreases in plant species richness and abundance and that removing or thinning PJ often results in reversing those decreases, little is known about the broader effects of PJ removal on non-target wildlife populations. PJ woodlands provide critical habitat for many bird species, and these woodlands have been shown to enhance regional bird diversity. Use of PJ habitats by small non-flying mammals has also been well studied, but similar studies are lacking for other ecologically important taxa, including bats and reptiles.