For Educators

Order Products

Login / My Account


Pecking Order: What Types of Post-Fire Snag Areas Do Woodpeckers Prefer?

This article is from Issue Wildland Fire 2 - Vol. 13 No. 1.

* Note: All editions of the Natural Inquirer starting with Volume 5 and including future editions require the newest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 in order to be downloaded. We have upgraded in order to ensure greater accessibility to PDF files. Please click on the following link if you need to upgrade your Adobe Acrobat reader: Upgrade now to Adobe Reader 6.0. It is a free upgrade.

Trees that are dead but still standing are called snags. Even though snags are dead, they are still are important parts of the forest. Snags provide benefits to the environment, especially to the animals that live nearby. Because the population of Black-backed woodpeckers had fallen in the Sierra Nevada, scientists wanted to study what types of postfire habitats this woodpecker liked best.

Welcome to the Wildland Fire 2 edition!

Note to Educators

Journal Lesson Plan 1

Journal Lesson Plan 2


Who or What Am I?

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Additional Resources for this Article:
Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
As scientists continue to do research, they learn new things. In the past, for example, scientists believed the best thing to do after a severe wildfire was to cut down and remove most of the snags. Snags are dying or dead trees that are left standing after a fire, flood, wind, disease, or insect damage. More recent research, however, has shown that snags may provide ecological benefits to an area. When science is used to solve a problem or make something better, it is called applied science. In this study, the scientists were doing applied science. This is because their research could be used to help forest managers take better care of the forest after a wildfire occurred.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Uses and Benefits of Science

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Think about your friends at school. They may seem similar to each other, but none of them are alike. This is true, even though they may like the same activities and laugh at the same jokes. Like your friends at school, all wildfires may seem alike, but they can actually be very different. One of the ways that wildfires are different from each other is that they burn at different severity levels. Wildfires are classified as low-, moderate-, or high-severity fires. High-severity fires are where most or all of the trees are killed by the fire (figure 1). Low-severity fires still have trees that are living (figure 2). Because wildfires do not burn evenly, a patch of forest that has experienced a high-severity burn may be almost surrounded by areas that have experienced low or medium severity wildfire.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Wildland Fire

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (C)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Regulation and behavior (C)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Structure and function in living systems (C)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)