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Forest structure of oak plantations after silvicultural treatment to enhance habitat for wildlife

January 1, 2016

During the past 30 years, thousands of hectares of oak-dominated bottomland hardwood plantations have been planted on agricultural fields in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Many of these plantations now have closed canopies and sparse understories. Silvicultural treatments could create a more heterogeneous forest structure, with canopy gaps and increased understory vegetation for wildlife. Lack of volume sufficient for commercial harvest in hardwood plantations has impeded treatments, but demand for woody biomass for energy production may provide a viable means to introduce disturbance beneficial for wildlife. We assessed forest structure in response to prescribed pre-commercial perturbations in hardwood plantations resulting from silvicultural treatments: 1) row thinning by felling every fourth planted row; 2) multiple patch cuts with canopy gaps of <1 0.25 – 2 ha; and 3) tree removal on intersecting corridors diagonal to planted rows. These 3 treatments, and an untreated control, were applied to oak plantations (20 - 30 years post-planting) on three National Wildlife Refuges (Cache River, AR; Grand Cote, LA; and Yazoo, MS) during summer 2010. We sampled habitat using fixed-radius plots in 2009 (pre-treatment) and in 2012 (post-treatment) at random locations. Retained basal area was least in diagonal corridor treatments but had greater variance in patch-cut treatments. All treatments increased canopy openness and the volume of coarse woody debris. Occurrence of birds using early successional habitats was greater on sites treated with patch cuts and diagonal intersections. Canopy openings on row-thinned stands are being filled by lateral crown growth of retained trees whereas patch cut and diagonal intersection gaps appear likely to be filled by regenerating saplings.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Forest structure of oak plantations after silvicultural treatment to enhance habitat for wildlife
Authors Daniel J. Twedt, Cherrie-Lee P. Phillip, Michael P. Guilfoyle, R. Randy Wilson
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70156652
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center