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Project ID: 13-1-04-44

Year: 2013

Date Started: 01/01/2014

Ending Date:  12/31/2016

Title: Reptile, Amphibian, Breeding Bird, and Invertebrate Response to Repeated Prescribed Fires and Mechanical Fuel Reduction Treatments in an Upland Hardwood Forest

Project Proposal Abstract: Prescribed burning is an important land management tool for upland hardwood forests, with fuel reduction, ecosystem restoration, and wildlife habitat improvement often cited as primary goals. Mechanical fuel reduction by cutting shrubs and small trees (also termed fire surrogates) is sometimes used instead of prescribed burns to reduce risks to property, safety, and air quality associated with fire. Prescribed burns are usually conducted in winter, and under restrictive fuel and weather conditions that generally result in low-intensity burns to minimize safety risks and potential damage to timber. Accordingly, changes to forest structure  a primary driver of wildlife community composition - are often limited to transitory reductions in shrub and leaf litter cover, with little overstory mortality. Despite substantial investment of time and funding for ecosystem restoration, stated goals are often vague, with little guidance available regarding methods to achieve goals, the temporal scale required, or metrics to assess effectiveness. We conducted a series of earlier studies through the National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study (FFS) infrastructure (at the same study sites proposed here for a third measurement) examining the responses of multiple vertebrate and invertebrate communities to prescribed burning and mechanical fuel reduction treatments after a single treatment (phase 1), and again after a second prescribed burn in the two burn treatments (phase 2). Our earlier results indicated that wildlife communities and species respond differently to habitat conditions created by prescribed burning. Thus, high severity burns have a much greater positive or negative impact on some species or communities than low severity burns, likely due to changes in canopy, shrub, and leaf litter cover with associated changes in microclimatic conditions. The southern Appalachian site of the FFS study is the first and only study in the region where wildlife response and habitat parameters have been measured after both single and repeated prescribed burning resulting in conditions of both high- and low-severity, and after two mechanical understory reductions. With each successive burn, the overstory, leaf litter, shrub layer, and associated microclimate conditions continued to change. Thus, the study has the potential to provide basic information to land managers on how wildlife communities and habitat parameters are impacted by repeated burning and fire severity - aspects of prescribed burning that have never been studied in upland hardwood forests. A better understanding of wildlife response to repeated burning and fire severity, particularly in upland hardwood forest, will allow a better job of establishing restoration objectives and planning management activities to reach those objectives. The Appalachian site of the FFS has been maintained since 2001 in partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, with three prescribed fires, two mechanical treatments, and periodic measurement of vegetation, fuels, and soils. Here, we propose to use the same experimental design and study sites to assess longer-term response of herpetofaunal, breeding bird, insect pollinators, and ground-dwelling invertebrate communities to a third prescribed fire in the two burn treatments, and a second mechanical felling of the understory (2012) in the mechanical-only treatment. This multi-phased study of different fire severities provides a unique temporal and spatial perspective on the use of prescribed fire for ecosystem restoration. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to assess ecosystem restoration and fuel reduction efforts at a longer temporal scale, and develop metrics to gauge effectiveness based on species composition of herpetofaunal, breeding bird communities, insect pollinators, and ground-dwelling arthropods in relation to time and habitat conditions.

Principal Investigator: Cathryn H Greenberg

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: SRS-Bent Creek Experimental Forest


Other Project Collaborators

Type

Name

Agency/Organization

Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Joyce M. Gorgas

Forest Service

SRS-Southern Research Station

Budget Contact

Joyce M. Gorgas

Forest Service

SRS-Southern Research Station

Co-Principal Investigator

Joshua W. Campbell

High Point University

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Christopher E. Moorman

North Carolina State University-Raleigh

Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources

Co-Principal Investigator

Thomas A. Waldrop

Forest Service

SRS-Department of Forest Resources

Funding Cooperator

Joshua W. Campbell

High Point University

Earth and Environmental Sciences

Funding Cooperator

Christopher E. Moorman

North Carolina State University-Raleigh

Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources


Project Locations

Consortium

Appalachian

Oak Woodlands

South


Level

State

Agency

Unit

REGIONAL

Southeast

FS


Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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