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NORTHERN SPOTTED OWL (Strix occidentalis caurina)

7. Ecological Role

The Spotted Owl is a high-level predator with specialized habitat requirements. It is at or near the top of the food chain in some late-successional and old coniferous forest ecosystems on the west coast of North America. The fate of threatened or endangered forest species can be thought of as indicators of ecosystem diversity and function (MELP 1998). When human activities threaten the viability of one species, as in the case of the Spotted Owl, it may indicate that ecosystems are being altered and that other species may be affected by the same activities. The Spotted Owl can also be viewed as an umbrella species, much like other wildlife that have large home ranges (e.g., Grizzly Bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, and Northern Goshawk). If sufficient habitat for these species can be conserved, then habitat for a multitude of species with smaller home ranges and similar habitat requirements can also be achieved.

If the Spotted Owl becomes extirpated, the consequences for ecosystem function and the scale of changes that may occur is unknown.