Effects of precommercial thinning and midstory control on avian and small mammal communities during longleaf pine Savanna restorationThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Restoring longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) savanna is a goal of many southern land managers, and longleaf plantations may provide a mechanism for savanna restoration. However, the effects of silvicultural treatments used in the management of longleaf pine plantations on wildlife communities are relatively unknown. Beginning in 1994, we examined effects of longleaf pine restoration with plantation silviculture on avian and small mammal communities using four treatments in four 8- to 11- year-old plantations within the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Treatments included prescribed burning every 3 to 5 years, plus: (1) no additional treatment (burn-only control); (2) precommercial thinning; (3) non-pine woody control with herbicides; and (4) combined thinning and woody control. We surveyed birds (1996-2003) using 50-m point counts and small mammals with removal trapping. Thinning and woody control alone had short-lived effects on avian communities, and the combination treatment increased avian parameters over the burn-only control in all years. Small mammal abundance showed similar trends as avian abundance for all three treatments when compared with the burn-only control, but only for 2 years post-treatment. Both avian and small mammal communities were temporarily enhanced by controlling woody vegetation with chemicals in addition to prescribed fire and thinning.Therefore, precommercial thinning in longleaf plantations, particularly when combined with woody control and prescribed fire, may benefit early-successional avian and small mammal communities by developing stand conditions more typical of natural longleaf stands maintained by periodic fire.