What’s good for the world’s largest owl is good for some of the world’s oldest forests according to a new study led by Jonathan Slaght a wildlife biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who spent a year tracking the endangered Blakiston’s fish owl through the 7,800 square mile mountainous range in Primorye, Russia.
While raging fires devastate hundreds of forests throughout the western United States, Slaght and colleagues. J. Gutiérrez and Sergei Surmach are looking to Blakiston's fish owls to determine the health of some of the “last great forests” in far eastern Russia, as well as China, Japan and North Korea, noting that the 2-1/2-foot tall, 10 lb birds (with 6-foot wingspans) and their favorite food, salmon, depend on “giant old-growth trees for breeding and feeding.”
“Not only do large living trees provide nesting cavities big enough for the birds, dead trees that fall into nearby streams serve to disrupt the water, forcing it to flow around, over and under them, generating a combination of deep, slow-moving backwaters and shallow, fast-moving channels that are critical to salmon at different stages in their lives,” reported Slaght. “Thus Blakiston's fish owls are clear indicators of the health of the forests, rivers and salmon populations where they live."
"This is an important realization because although some of the region’s policymakers don't care about conservation, they do care about the economy. We can now make a case for reduced logging in riverbank areas within Primorye, because this action can potentially impact commercially valuable salmon and trout populations there,” he continued.
As a result, the researchers have determined the need to curtail the ever expanding logging activities that have been encroaching into the owls’ habitat in the past few decades as the only way to protect the birds as well as the 8 species of salmon and trout found there.
Note: Primorye is also home to other endangered species including Asiatic bears, Siberian tigers and 12 other owl species.
To learn more readers can find full details of Slaght’s study in the October issue of the journal Oryx.