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Restoration practices and forest ecosystem resiliency

Frequent prescribed fire and forest thinning could boost forest resiliency by supporting more species that have similar roles in their ecosystems. Redundancy of species can help buffer forest ecosystems from disturbances.

A square wooden box trap sitting on the ground.
Researchers surveyed snakes with a box trap at the South Boggy Slough Conservation Area in Trinity County, Texas. Courtesy photo by Connor Adams, Stephen F. Austin State University.

Researchers compared two forest management regimes in the pine forests of eastern Texas. To understand the effects of the different management practices, the study measured the response of snakes as an indicator taxon. Snakes are good indicators because they generally have predictable patterns of seasonal activity and use many habitat types within their home range.

In the high-frequency regime, burn intervals were short (1-3 years) and forest thinning was conducted. In the low-frequency regime, burn intervals were longer (5-8 years) and there was no thinning.

More species were present in the low-frequency regime, the results showed. However, the high-frequency regime had more species with similar traits, or more redundancy. In forest ecosystems, redundancy can provide stability and resilience.

The results suggest that increased frequency of prescribed fires and thinning operations can lead to greater stability and resilience in pine forest ecosystems, because there are more species fulfilling a similar functional role.

Principal Investigators
Daniel Saenz, Research Wildlife Biologist
Christopher Schalk, Research Ecologist
RWU
4159 - Southern Pine Ecology and Management
Publication
Disparate patterns of taxonomic and functional predator diversity under different forest management regimes
External Partners
Connor Adams, Stephen F. Austin State University
K. Rebecca Kidd, Stephen F. Austin State University