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Keywords:

  • barrens restoration, Kirtland's warbler, endangered species, jack pine, plantations, Vaccinium angustifolium, Carex pensylvanica

Abstract

Jack pine barrens, once common in northern lower Michigan, mostly have been converted to managed jack pine plantations. Management of the disturbances associated with logging provides the opportunity to maintain the unique plant assemblages of jack pine barrens and nest habitat of the federally endangered Kirtland's warbler. Studies indicate that Carex pensylvanica can develop into dense mats and strongly compete with other barrens species such as Vaccinium angustifolium, which seem to be important species for Kirtland's warbler nest locations. According to forest managers, the most important factors facilitating high cover of V. angustifolium and reducing cover of C. pensylvanica are the amount of shade produced by tree crowns before harvest (pre-harvest shade), the length of time between harvest and planting (planting delay), and fire. We found that high or low levels of pre-harvest shade had no effect on cover of either V. angustifolium or C. pensylvanica. Planting delays of at least three years following prescribed burns generally increased cover of V. angustifolium in forest plots, which are important for warbler nesting. Analysis of community composition in openings indicated that burning enhanced the growth of barrens species. We found only weak evidence for a negative correlation between the cover of V. angustifolium and C. pensylvanica on our study sites. The openings created in the jack pine plantation are important refugia for barrens flora that would likely be lost under forests managed strictly for jack pine. Maintenance of jack pine barrens flora and Kirtland's warbler nest habitat is possible within the context of a heavily managed forest plantation system.