Goal: Sustain Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands Reptile, amphibian, breeding bird, and invertebrate response to repeated prescribed fires and mechanical fuel reduction treatments in an upland hardwood forest
Prescribed burning is a common forest management tool, with fuel reduction, ecosystem restoration, and wildlife habitat improvement often cited as primary goals. Mechanical fuel reduction by cutting shrubs and small trees is sometimes used instead to reduce risks to property, safety, and air quality. Southern Research Station scientists studied how breeding birds, reptiles, amphibians, pollinating insects, and beetles responded to repeated fuel reduction treatments in upland hardwood forests.
In upland hardwood forests of North Carolina, breeding bird abundance and richness and lizard abundance was much higher in areas treated with both mechanical fuel reduction and prescribed fire. The results build on the Fire and Fire Surrogate study, which began in 2000 as an integrated national network investigating fuel reduction treatments and their impact on vegetation, wildlife, and fuels.
The current study focused on how forest structure and wildlife responded to a fourth prescribed fire and a second mechanical fuel reduction treatment. Initial high-severity burns in the combined fire and mechanical fuel reduction plots killed most trees, creating an open canopy with dense shrubs. In contrast, repeated low-intensity prescribed burns with no mechanical fuel reduction killed a few trees over time, increasing structural diversity.
After the prescribed fires, pollinating insect abundance was higher in both burn treatments, while amphibian and beetle abundance and diversity was similar across treatments. In general, wildlife response to repeated, low intensity burns was negligible. Different responses among species highlight the importance of including multiple taxa when assessing effects of forest disturbances on wildlife and give perspective on how forest health may vary depending on target taxa.
- Principal Investigator
- Katie H. Greenberg, Research Ecologist
- 4157 - Upland Hardwood Ecology and Management
- Strategic Program Area
- Resource Management and Use
- Wildlife and Fish
- Fire and Fuels
- Long-term avian response to fire severity, repeated burning, and mechanical fuel reduction in upland hardwood forest
- Long-term herpetofaunal response to repeated fuel reduction treatments
- CompassLive Story
- Reptiles and Amphibians Unharmed by Prescribed Fires in Early Growing Season
- Research Partner
- Tom Waldrop, US Forest Service, Southern Research Station
- External Partners
- Christopher Moorman, North Carolina State University
- Josh Campbell, High Point University