Avian and Small Mammal Communities on Different Successional Stages of Reclaimed Kaolin Mines in Georgia

Although surface mining may affect wildlife communities adversely, the degree of impact depends upon the extent of mining activity and the reclamation efforts employed. We compared breeding bird and small mammal communities on sites of different successional stages in 1995 and 1996 to evaluate the wildlife value of the reclamation prescriptions currently used on kaolin surface mines in east-central Georgia. Sites were grouped according to tree ages during the first year of the study (age class I, 2-4 years; age class II, 5-7 years; and age class III, 8-11 years). Avian abundance in 1995 was greatest in age classes I and II. In 1996, avian abundance was more than twice as great in age class I than in the 2 other age classes. Species richness in both years was greater in age class II. Avian diversity was greater in the 2 oldest age classes in 1995, but was not different among classes in 1996. Cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) were the most common small mammals captured. In December, total small mammal captures were lower in the older age classes. Reclaimed kaolin mines provide habitat for many avian and mammalian species, but efforts to encourage development of a shrub layer in older habitats may increase avian abundance. The establishment of heterogeneous ground cover also may lengthen the time in which stands are available to small mammal species.

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