Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Guynn, Jr., David C.

Committee Member

Hanlin , Hugh G.

Committee Member

Lanham , Joseph D.

Abstract

Research on the effects of wetland restoration on reptiles and amphibians is becoming more common, but almost all of these studies have observed the colonization of recently disturbed habitats that were completely dry at the time of restoration. In a similar manner, investigations herpetofaunal responses to forest management have focused on clearcuts, and less intensive stand manipulations are not as well studied. To evaluate community and population responses of reptiles and amphibians to hydrology restoration and canopy removal in the interior of previously degraded Carolina bays, I monitored herpetofauna in the uplands adjacent to six historically degraded Carolina bays in the at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina for four years after restoration. To evaluate the effects of forest thinning on upland herpetofauna, forests were thinned in the margins of three of these bays. I used repeated measures ANOVA to compare species richness and diversity and the abundance of selected species and guilds between these bays and with those at three reference bays that were not historically drained and three control bays that remained degraded. I also used Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) to look for community-level patterns based treatments
I did not detect any differences in diversity or overall abundance of reptiles or amphibians between the four treatments, and NMDS did not indicate any patterns of community structure based on treatment. I captured eleven South Carolina species of conservation concern at the twelve bays, including juvenile Carolina gopher frogs (Rana capito) at two restored bays. Adult gopher frogs have only rarely been documented on the SRS despite intensive, long-term sampling at several wetlands, and successful recruitment is even rarer.
Southern toads (Bufo terrestris) responded quickly to bay restoration, and gopher frog recruitment can be considered an indication of habitat quality. Because many of these species are highly philopatric and have limited dispersal ability, four years may be too soon to see changes in the herpetofaunal community, especially since restoration improved existing habitat rather than restoring uninhabitable sites. Pre-restoration sampling and long-term monitoring would allow more firm conclusions to be made.
Forest thinning reduced the most common reptile, the green anole (Anolis carolinensis), a generalist lizard not especially sensitive to an open canopy or to harvest operations. Increased red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) populations in disturbed areas and open canopies could be a factor, though more research is needed on the effects of fire ants on herpetofauna.

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