Response of Reptiles and Amphibians to Repeated Fuel Reduction Treatments
Recent use of prescribed fire and fire surrogates to reduce fuel hazards has spurred interest in their effects on wildlife. Studies of fire in the southern Appalachian Mountains (USA) have documented few effects on reptiles and amphibians. However, these studies were conducted after only one fire and for only a short time (1–3 yr) after the fire. From mid-May to mid-August 2006 and 2007, we used drift fences with pitfall and funnel traps to capture reptiles and amphibians in a control and 3 replicated 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). We captured fewer salamanders in mechanical + twice-burned treatment areas than in twice-burned and control treatment areas, but we captured more lizards in mechanical + twice-burned treatment areas than in other treatment areas. Higher lizard captures in mechanical + twice-burned treatment areas likely was related to increased ground temperatures and greater thermoregulatory opportunities. Higher and more variable ground temperatures and faster drying of remaining litter and duff may have led to fewer salamander captures in mechanical + twice-burned treatment areas. Our longer term results, after 2 prescribed burns, differ from shorter term results. After one prescribed burn at the same site, eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) captures were greater in mechanical + burn treatment areas but salamander captures did not differ among treatment areas. Our results indicate that multiple ( L2) fuel-reduction treatments that decrease canopy cover may benefit lizards but negatively affect salamanders.