Fire Impacts to Small Mammals in Piedmont Oak-shelterwoods

Successful regeneration of oaks on better sites (SI50>60) has proven difficult in recent decades due to competition from faster growing species and well-established advanced regeneration from more shade-tolerant species. The suppression of fire is thought to have played a critical role in allowing this largely fire-intolerant competition to dominate many upland hardwood forests at the expense of oaks. As part of a larger study examining the role of prescribed fire in regenerating upland oaks, seasonal prescribed burns were applied to first-stage shelterwood harvested stands on Horsepen WMA in the Virginia Piedmont in 1995. We surveyed small mammal communities in these stands to assess the impact of such fires on this component of the fauna. Over a combined 34,000 snap-trap and pitfall trapnights, we found no significant differences in relative abundance of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), southeastern shrews (Sorex longirostris) pygmy shrews (Sorex hoyi) or southern short-tailed shrews (Blarina carolinensis) among unburned shelterwood stands and those treated with winter, spring, or summer burns. Based on our results, prescribed burning in these shelterwood stands is not adversely impacting small mammals.

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