Effects of Red-cockaded Woodpecker Management on Vegetative Composition and Structure and Subsequent Impacts on Game Species

To facilitate recovery of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW), management priorities and practices on >800,000 ha of Forest Service land in the Southeastern United States have been realigned to restore the pine-grassland system to which the RCW is adapted. Management regimes for RCW involve fire and mechanical suppression of hardwood understory and midstory. As such, RCW management practices might be expected to alter plant communities and associated wildlife populations. We examined differences in vegetation composition and structure between mature pine stands managed for red-cockaded woodpeckers and similarly-aged stands not managed specifically for RCWs on 2 national forests in southern Mississippi. During the growing seasons of 1997 and 1998, 123 vegetation plots were sampled on both study areas using nested circular plots. Pine sawtimber stands under RCW management differed in structure and composition from those under traditional U.S. Forest Service (USFS) management. Hard mast production was reduced by RCW management, while soft mast production, forb canopy cover, and grass canopy cover increased. Although differences were detected between study areas for several vegetative characteristics, RCW management had similar effects on composition and structure of the vegetative communities. We documented potential effects of RCW management for game species.

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