Precommercial thinning (PCT) is being practiced increasingly throughout the Acadian forest of eastern North America to meet silvicultural objectives; however, effects of this practice on wildlife, both immediately and several years post-treatment are not well understood. Forest dependent small mammals have ecological roles as prey for numerous avian and mammalian predators, dispersers of seeds, fruit, and spores, and contribute to nutrient cycling. Researchers in the northwestern USA have suggested that thinning of young, regenerating clearcuts may increase the abundance and diversity of some forest-dependent small mammals by increasing rates of forest development and enhancing the ecological representation of mid-successional stands across managed landscapes. We examined the effects of PCT within conifer-dominated forest stands 1-, 6-, 11-, and 16-years post-treatment, on abundances of mice, voles, and shrews, and on within-stand structure in the commercially managed, Acadian forests of northern Maine. We live-trapped small mammals on 24 herbicide-treated clearcuts treated with PCT and on 13 similar, unthinned stands during summers of 2000 and 2001. Thinning of mid-successional conifer stands resulted in increased abundances, (red-backed voles, Clethrionomys gapperi, P = 0.008; masked shrews, Sorex cinereus, P < 0.001) or had no detectable effect on (deer mice, Peromyscus maniculatus, P = 0.544; short-tailed shrews, Blarina brevicauda, P = 0.517) the 4 most common species of Muridae and Soricidae in northern Maine. In general, abundance of deer mice responded more positively to increasing development class and to the number of years since thinning than other species of small mammals. Several within-stand habitat characteristics associated with stand maturity, such as larger stem diameters and a partially open canopy, occurred in thinned stands. Thus, PCT may accelerate the development of habitat attributes typical of mid-successional conifer stands in intensively managed stands within the Acadian Forest. PCT may increase abundances of small mammal species associated with mid-seral forest conditions at the scale of the forest stand. ?? 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Long-term effects of precommercial thinning on small mammals in northern Maine