Vegetation changes from private forestland management can increase species richness and abundance
Conservation efforts on private lands are important for biodiversity conservation. On private lands in South Carolina, forestry management practices (prescribed burning, thinning, herbicide application) are used to improve upland pine habitat for wildlife and timber harvest and are incentivized through United States Department of Agriculture Farm Bill cost-share programs. Because many forest-dependent bird species have habitat requirements created primarily through forest management, data are needed on the effectiveness of these management activities. We studied privately-owned loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stands in the South Carolina Piedmont region. Our objective was to understand how management practices influence avian species richness and abundance at local (forest stand) and landscape levels in relatively small stands (average ~28 hectares). We surveyed 49 forest stands during two bird breeding seasons with traditional point counts and vegetation surveys. We evaluated the effects of management on pine stand characteristics, avian species richness, and abundance of state-designated bird species of concern. Repeated burning and thinning shifted stand conditions to open pine woodlands with reduced basal area and herbaceous understories. Stands with lower basal area supported greater avian species richness. Some species increased in abundance in response to active management (e.g., Brown-headed Nuthatch, Sitta pusilla, and Indigo Bunting, Passerina cyanea), but relationships varied. Some species responded positively to increases in forest quantity at a landscape scale (1–5 km, e.g., Northern Bobwhite, Colinus virginianus). We found species-rich avian communities and species of conservation concern on working timber lands, indicating that incentivized forest management on private lands can provide valuable habitat for wildlife.
Ross, Beth E. (2021), "Vegetation changes from private forestland management can increase species richness and abundance", Zenodo, doi: 10.5061/dryad.dncjsxkx5