Long-term Response of Herpetofauna and Soricids to Prescribed Fire and Fuel Reduction Treatments in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

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Title: Long-term Response of Herpetofauna and Soricids to Prescribed Fire and Fuel Reduction Treatments in the Southern Appalachian Mountains
Author: Matthews, Charlotte Esther
Advisors: Dr. Christopher E. Moorman, Committee Chair
Dr. Cathryn H. Greenberg, Committee Member
Dr. Kenneth H. Pollock, Committee Member
Abstract: Recent use of prescribed fire and fire surrogates to reduce fuel hazards has spurred interest in their effects on wildlife. Some studies of fire in the southern Appalachian Mountains have documented few effects on reptiles and amphibians. However, these studies were conducted after only one fire and for only a short time period (1 to 3 years) after the fire. From mid-May to mid-August 2006 and 2007, we used drift fences with pitfall traps to trap reptiles, amphibians, and shrews in western North Carolina and to asses their response to 3 fuel reduction treatments: 1) twice-burned (2003 and 2006), 2) mechanical understory cut (2002), and 3) mechanical understory cut (2002) followed by 2 burns (2003 and 2006), and a control. We captured significantly fewer salamanders in the mechanical + twice-burned treatment than in twice-burned and control treatments, but more lizards in the mechanical + twice-burned treatment. Higher lizard captures in mechanical + twice-burned treatments was likely due to increased ground temperatures and greater thermoregulatory opportunities. Higher and more variable ground temperatures and faster drying of the remaining litter and duff in mechanical + twice-burned treatments may have led to fewer salamander captures in these treatments. We captured significantly fewer southeastern shrews (Sorex longirostris) in the mechanical + twice-burned treatment than in the mechanical treatment in 2006, but southeastern shrew captures did not differ among treatments in 2007. Total shrew captures did not differ among treatments in either year. Decreases in leaf litter and canopy cover in the mechanical + twice-burned treatment may have led to decreases in moisture and therefore decreases in southeastern shrew captures. Our long-term results, after 2 prescribed burns, differ from results after 1 prescribed burn, after which eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) captures were greater in mechanical + burn treatments but salamander captures did not differ among treatments. Low-intensity fuel reduction treatments in the southern Appalachian Mountains do not appear to greatly affect reptile, amphibian, or shrew populations. However, multiple (>2) high intensity burns may benefit lizards but negatively affect salamanders and some shrew species, at least temporarily.
Date: 2008-12-03
Degree: MS
Discipline: Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1798


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