Date of Award

8-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Lanham, Joseph D

Committee Member

Sharp , Julia L

Committee Member

Song , Bo

Committee Member

Wang , Geoff

Abstract

To assess the impacts of fire disturbance management on the avian community at Jocassee gorges in the mountains of South Carolina, a total of 1000 10-minute, 50 m radius point counts were conducted in treatment and control plots during the spring breeding seasons of 2011 and 2012. Comparisons of avian communities were made between the burned treatment sites and reference control sites to examine community and priority species response to prescribed fire. Values of species diversity, species richness, and total number of individuals were found to be significantly higher in the burned treatment plots than in the control plots as a result of differences in structural complexity and the distribution of resources. The occurrence of focal species, as well as other species, was found to vary between sites. Species associated with early successional and more open habitats, such as eastern wood-pewees (Contopus virens) and indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea) were observed more often in burned sites, while species that require shrubbery and broad-leaved foliage on which to forage, like black-throated green (Dendroica virens) and hooded warblers (Wilsonia citrine), were observed more often in control sites. Models created using structural vegetation data identified characteristics of vegetation and landform that were found to be useful in predicting the occurrence of 6 of the 7 priority species at Jocassee. Differences in the occurrence of nesting and foraging guilds were related to differences in complexity of habitat structure and composition. This research suggests that fire management can be a useful tool to create wider variation across the landscape, providing increased opportunities for nesting and foraging resources for an array of bird species.

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