Date of Award

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Committee Member

Dr. Robert F. Baldwin

Committee Member

Dr. Kyle Barrett

Committee Member

Dr. Jessica A. Homyack

Abstract

Increased knowledge of wildlife species occurring in managed pine plantations is critical to effectively managing forests for both economic and ecological objectives. We investigated herpetofaunal populations at three types of aquatic systems embedded in an intensively managed pine landscape in eastern North Carolina, USA. These aquatic systems (altered sites, unaltered sites, and roadside ditches) vary in the way they are managed and the amount of disturbance they receive during forest management activities. Additionally, these aquatic systems are surrounded by a range of structural conditions. Our goal was to assess community composition and occupancy of herpetofauna as a function of aquatic system type and stand age class. During 2013-2014, we used visual encounter surveys, dipnet surveys, and passive call surveys (using automated recording devices) to determine the presence of amphibians and reptiles at 53 aquatic sites. We found that aquatic systems surrounded by varying structural conditions can support a wide range (n=34) of amphibian and reptile species, including 4 species listed in North Carolina as priority species. Stand age surrounding an aquatic site was not a significant driver explaining species richness, community composition, or occupancy for both amphibians and reptiles. We did detect differences in species richness, community composition, and occupancy for amphibians by aquatic system type. We found greater amphibian species richness in unaltered and altered sites, as well as composition differences among all three aquatic system types. Amphibian occupancy varied by species and was associated with site-scale habitat features such as vegetation and hydroperiod. The interaction between different aquatic systems and forest management in this system is complex, but the mixture of aquatic sites and stand structures appears to benefit a large number of herpetofaunal species, allowing intensively managed forests to provide valuable habitat for amphibian and reptiles.

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