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Keywords:

  • amphibians;
  • fire;
  • forest management;
  • herbicide;
  • imazapyr;
  • intensive forestry;
  • loblolly pine plantation;
  • mid-rotation;
  • Mississippi;
  • reptiles

ABSTRACT

Managers of commercial forests are increasingly expected to incorporate conservation of biodiversity in forest management plans, but a paucity of information exists regarding herpetofaunal responses to mid-rotation release practices of dormant-season prescribed fire and selective herbicide in intensively managed pine (Pinus spp.) stands. However, these management tools have demonstrated capabilities of improving conservation value in these forests in the southeastern United States. Therefore, we investigated summer herpetofaunal responses to factorial combinations of dormant-season prescribed fire and a commonly used herbicide (imazapyr) with a randomized complete block design of 6 mid-rotation pine stands with 4 experimental units in Mississippi, USA, to which we applied at random 1 of 4 treatments (i.e., burn only, herbicide only, burn + herbicide, control). We captured 814 reptiles and 3,699 amphibians of 17 and 16 species, respectively, using drift-fence arrays during May and June, 1999–2007. Herpetofaunal assemblages only differed between burn + herbicide and control plots in 2002. Species-specific responses were limited to differences across years within treatments and greater eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) relative abundance in burned or herbicide-treated sites soon after treatment. Furthermore, herpetofaunal associations with measured environmental variables (e.g., vegetation structure and biomass and trap-site characteristics) did not indicate that treatment influenced fluctuations in species relative abundances. Consistent with past studies, forest managers of commercial pine forests using dormant-season prescribed fire with or without imazapyr will most likely have minimal additional effects on herpetofaunal assemblages, but current knowledge gaps require additional research to better understand mechanisms of species abundance and persistence in these landscapes. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.