Rodent Damage to Direct Seeded Willow Oak in Louisiana

Direct-seeding is no longer commonly used for reforesting bottomland hardwood habitat because of low seedling survival due in part to predation of seeds by animals. We investigated the impact of seed predation by rodents on direct seeded willow oak (Quercus phellos). Acorns of willow oak were planted at a rate of 5,982 seeds/ha on low-lying farmland in the Ouachita Wildlife Management Area, Louisiana. A 200 live-trap grid and randomly placed seedling survival plots were used to study the relationship between density and activity of rodents, and predation rate of seeds and seedling survival. Rice (Oryzomys palustris) and cotton (Sigmodon hispidus) rats were the most likely acorn predators. Average survival rate of seedlings was negatively correlated with rodent activity. The phenological maturity of vegetation and the amount of vegetative cover was positively correlated with rodent activity. By seeding at rates 62% higher than normal (5,982 seeds/ha), successful seedling establishment was achieved despite moderate densities of rodent seed predators. Management guidelines are suggested to maximize the efficacy of direct-seeding on cleared bottomland sites.

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