Effects of Two Site Preparation Techniques on Biomass of

Recently, concern has arisen regarding possible effects of site preparation treatments, particularly herbicide use, on availability and quality of browse for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). To examine this concern, we quantified species-specific plant biomass of browse for deer in clearcuts site prepared with either prescribed fire (N = 5) or a combination of imazapyr with triclopyr and prescribed fire (N = 5) in eastern Louisiana during 2003-2005. Total biomass of quality browse did not differ between treatments, but was higher in years 1 and 2 post-treatment. However, stands site prepared with fire and herbicides were dominated by herbaceous vegetation, legumes, and Rubus spp. during the first growing season following site preparation, whereas stands prepared with fire were dominated by woody and vine species. Differences diminished across years with sites becoming structurally similar by the third year. Annual differences were reflective of successional changes more so than site preparation treatments. Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), an understory species of concern for silvicultural operations in eastern Louisiana because of its competition with young pine seedlings, dominated (>30% of total biomass) stands site prepared with fire only by the end of our study. Our findings suggest that site preparation techniques have temporary effects on vegetation and that judicious use of herbicides can improve browse for deer and may improve habitat conditions for other early successional species in eastern Louisiana.

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