Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Member

Dr. Beth Ross, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Donald Hagan

Committee Member

Dr. David Jachowski

Abstract

Land-use activities and changes to ecosystems pervasively threaten biodiversity. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Bill allocates financial and technical resources to meet the need for agricultural and timber production while also conserving natural resources. On private forestlands in South Carolina, management practices (prescribed burning, thinning, herbicide application) are employed to improve upland pine habitat for wildlife and are reimbursable through Farm Bill cost-share programs. Some regional priority bird species have habitat requirements dependent on forestry management, so data are needed on how common management activities affect bird communities. I studied managed loblolly pine systems in the South Carolina Piedmont region to understand how forestry management practices influence wildlife habitat at local and landscape levels. I used traditional point counts and autonomous recording units (ARUs) to survey birds on 53 private forestland sites. In Chapter 2, I discuss the effects of management on pine stand characteristics, on overall species diversity, and on abundance of particular guilds and species. Repeated burning and thinning shifted stand conditions to open pine woodlands with herbaceous understories and supported higher species diversity. Some guilds and species responded positively to active management, but many relationships were subtler and varied by life history. In Chapter 3, I address the need for widespread, effective monitoring to gauge responses of wildlife to private land management. I evaluate ARUs as an efficient tool for collecting presence/absence data to characterize diversity on private lands when resources are limited. Although I detected similar lists of species with individual point counts as with individual acoustic surveys, I detected more species across all visits and seasons with the point count method. ARUs are reliable sampling tools for spatial and temporal replication but come with processing challenges. I found rich avian communities on working timber lands, supporting the idea that private lands contribute to wildlife conservation in South Carolina. I showed that one strategy for private land conservation, voluntary Farm Bill habitat incentive programs, can improve regional resources for wildlife. Finally, effective monitoring methods must be used to help conservation practitioners and land managers track the benefits of these programs to wildlife communities.

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