Burrow densities of primary burrowing crayfishes in relation to prescribed fire and mechanical vegetation treatments
Fire suppression and other factors have drastically reduced wet prairie and pine savanna ecosystems on the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States. Restoration of these open‐canopy environments often targets one or several charismatic species, and semi‐aquatic species such as burrowing crayfishes are often overlooked in these essentially terrestrial environments. We examined the relationship between primary burrowing crayfishes and three vegetation treatments implemented over at least the past two decades in the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge. Vegetation in the 12 study sites had been frequently burned, frequently mechanically treated, or infrequently managed. Creaserinus spp., primarily C. oryktes, dominated the crayfish assemblage in every site. We counted crayfish burrow openings and coarsely categorized vegetation characteristics
in 90, 0.56‐m2 quadrats evenly distributed among six transects per site. The number of active burrow openings was negatively, exponentially related to both the percent cover of woody vegetation and the maximum height of woody vegetation in quadrats, and to the number of trees taller than 1.2 m per transect, indicating that woody plant encroachment was detrimental to the crayfishes.
Results were consistent with several other studies from the eastern US, indicating that some primary burrowing crayfishes are habitat specialists adapted to open‐canopy ecosystems.