Potential Silvicultural Effects on Bald Eagle Nesting Substrate and Economic Yields at a Navy Installation in the Chesapeake Bay: An Approach Using the Forest Vegetation Simulator and Mahalanobis Distance

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Virginia Tech


In the interest of maintaining lands to fully support the military mission, Department of Defense (DOD) installations must manage competing objectives under constraints related to mission operations, regulation and compliance requirements, and budget reductions. Silviculture offers promise for ecosystem management while providing financial means through the sale of forest products. This study used forest inventory and bald eagle nest site data to investigate the potential effects of silviculture on bald eagle nesting habitat at Naval Support Facility Indian Head. Mahalanobis distance was used to define and classify preferred nesting substrate. Silviculture was simulated using the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS) to assess forest nesting substrate, economic yields and the tradeoffs between these two objectives. An alternative substrate model based on cumulative distribution functions (CDFs) and Boolean logic allowed evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the Mahalanobis distance method.

The Mahalanobis distance model provided greater relative fit to the sample of nest sites compared to the CDF model but had lower discriminating power between presence and absence data. Simulation results indicate that top performing silvicultural treatments resulted in greater substrate availability compared to no-action over equal time periods. Uneven-age management was shown as the best system for providing nesting substrate as well as favorable economic yields in hardwood stands. Results also stress the importance of thinning in providing future nesting substrate and maintaining preferred substrate late in the rotation. Economic and habitat tradeoffs varied by treatment, suggesting that optimum prescriptions could be identified to provide for both objectives and minimize tradeoffs.



habitat suitability, silviculture, bald eagle, military, Chesapeake Bay