Functional heterogeneity of forest landscapes and the distribution and abundance of the red-cockaded woodpecker Academic Article uri icon


  • Red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW, Picoides borealis) populations are greatly affected by the fragmentation of forest habitat through its effect on the dispersal of individuals between active clusters and other areas of the suitable habitat. In order to assess the suitability of a given landscape structure for the maintenance and expansion of RCW populations, land managers need an index that correlates with the bird's awareness of that structure. Rather than assuming that common landscape metrics provide the necessary information, we applied an index of functional heterogeneity to a GIS coverage for the western portion of the Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF) in east Texas, using two observation scales. In contrast to measured heterogeneity, functional heterogeneity incorporates the RCW response to forest structure. The GIS coverage included information on habitat suitability and RCW cluster distribution and size. The analyses indicated that the presence of cavity trees is the most important factor for RCW population maintenance and that fragmentation of the foraging habitat has much less impact. The analyses also indicated that many areas that are currently of high functional importance for the RCW are effectively isolated from one another. This second result has significant implications for the dispersal of individuals between areas of high functionality and thus also the maintenance of the RCW in this forest. The functional heterogeneity analyses can also be used to examine the trade offs involved in managing the multiple wildlife species simultaneously and for examining the effects of various harvesting regimes through time. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Azevedo, J., Jack, S. B., Coulson, R. N., & Wunneburger, D. F.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Azevedo, JCM||Jack, SB||Coulson, RN||Wunneburger, DF

publication date

  • March 2000