Date of Award

12-2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

Lanham, Joseph

Committee Member

Costa , Ralph

Committee Member

Walker , Joan

Committee Member

Wang , Geoff

Abstract

Fire is the most important management tool in restoring and maintaining the longleaf pine ecosystem but the effects of season of burning on fauna are not fully understood. Of particular concern is the community of birds which breed in the longleaf pine forest, several of which are endangered, threatened or species of concern. This study examined the effects of season of fire on the breeding bird community and a population of red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCW) at Brosnan Forest in Dorchester, South Carolina. Fifty-eight RCW territories received dormant or growing season fire over a five-year period from 2001 to 2005. Prior to 2001, all territories had been burned regularly during the dormant season. RCW groups were monitored for reproductive success and breeding bird numbers were determined using 50 meter fixed radius point counts. No difference was found in RCW group size, clutch size or number of fledglings between season of burn treatments. RCW territories treated with growing season burns were also compared before and after treatment. Reproductive measures did not change significantly after the introduction of growing season fire. Mean total abundance of breeding birds and species composition were not different between season of burn treatments; however species richness was greater in growing season burned territories (P < 0.10). Bachman's sparrows and indigo buntings were more abundant in dormant season burn territories (P < 0.10). Mourning doves, pine warblers and white-eyed vireos were more abundant in growing season burn territories (P < 0.10). Analyses of breeding bird data by nesting, foraging, and habitat guilds, showed no significant differences in abundance between treatments, with the exception of tree nesters, which were more abundant in growing season burn territories. Avian Conservation Values (ACV) were calculated for the season of burn treatments by weighting bird abundance values with adjusted Partners In Flight concern scores. ACVs were significantly different between burn treatments when years were blocked (P = 0.0279); however yearly variation was large. Overall, this study found season of fire had little influence on the RCW population or the bird community as a whole; however, long-term studies are needed to better understand this relationship.

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