Woodland salamander responses to a shelterwood harvest-prescribed burn silvicultural treatment within Appalachian mixed-oak forests

Forest Ecology and Management
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Abstract

Forest management practices that mimic natural canopy disturbances, including prescribed fire and timber harvests, may reduce competition and facilitate establishment of favorable vegetative species within various ecosystems. Fire suppression in the central Appalachian region for almost a century has contributed to a transition from oak-dominated to more mesophytic, fire-intolerant forest communities. Prescribed fire coupled with timber removal is currently implemented to aid in oak regeneration and establishment but responses of woodland salamanders to this complex silvicultural system is poorly documented. The purpose of our research was to determine how woodland salamanders respond to shelterwood harvests following successive burns in a central Appalachian mixed-oak forest. Woodland salamanders were surveyed using coverboard arrays in May, July, and August–September 2011 and 2012. Surveys were conducted within fenced shelterwood-burn (prescribed fires, shelterwood harvest, and fencing to prevent white-tailed deer [Odocoileus virginianus] herbivory), shelterwood-burn (prescribed fires and shelterwood harvest), and control plots. Relative abundance was modeled in relation to habitat variables measured within treatments for mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus), slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus), and eastern red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Mountain dusky salamander relative abundance was positively associated with canopy cover and there were significantly more individuals within controls than either shelterwood-burn or fenced shelterwood-burn treatments. Conversely, habitat variables associated with slimy salamanders and eastern red-backed salamanders did not differ among treatments. Salamander age-class structure within controls did not differ from shelterwood-burn or fenced shelterwood-burn treatments for any species. Overall, the woodland salamander assemblage remained relatively intact throughout the shelterwoodburn silvicultural treatment compared to previous research within the same study area that examined pre-harvest fire effects. However, because of the multi-faceted complexities of this specific silvicultural system, continued research is warranted that evaluates long-term, additive impacts on woodland salamanders within managed central Appalachian deciduous forests.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Woodland salamander responses to a shelterwood harvest-prescribed burn silvicultural treatment within Appalachian mixed-oak forests
Series title Forest Ecology and Management
DOI 10.1016/j.foreco.2015.09.042
Volume 359
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 9 p.
First page 277
Last page 285
Country United States
State West Virginia
Other Geospatial Fernow Experimental Forest
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N