Impacts of short-rotation early-growing season prescribed fire on a ground nesting bird in the central hardwoods region of North America

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Landscape-scale short-rotation early-growing season prescribed fire, hereafter prescribed fire, in upland hardwood forests represents a recent shift in management strategies across eastern upland forests. Not only does this strategy depart from dormant season to growing season prescriptions, but the strategy also moves from stand-scale to landscape-scale implementation (>1,000 ha). This being so, agencies are making considerable commitments in terms of time and resources to this management strategy, but the effects on wildlife in upland forests, especially those dominated by hardwood canopy species, are relatively unknown. We initiated our study to assess whether this management strategy affects eastern wild turkey reproductive ecology on the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. We marked 67 wild turkey hens with Global Positioning System (GPS) Platform Transmitting Terminals in 2012 and 2013 to document exposure to prescribed fire, and estimate daily nest survival, nest success, and nest-site selection. We estimated these reproductive parameters in forest units managed with prescribed fire (treated) and units absent of prescribed fire (untreated). Of 60 initial nest attempts monitored, none were destroyed or exposed to prescribed fire because a majority of fires occurred early than a majority of the nesting activity. We found nest success was greater in untreated units than treated units (36.4% versus 14.6%). We did not find any habitat characteristic differences between successful and unsuccessful nest-sites. We found that nest-site selection criteria differed between treated and untreated units. Visual concealment and woody ground cover were common selection criteria in both treated and untreated units. However, in treated units wild turkey selected nest-sites with fewer small shrubs (<5 cm ground diameter) and large trees (>20 cm DBH) but not in untreated units. In untreated units wild turkey selected nest-sites with more large shrubs (≥5cm ground diameter) but did not select for small shrubs or large trees. Our findings suggest that wild turkey have not benefited from the reintroduction of prescribed fire to the WRERA.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impacts of short-rotation early-growing season prescribed fire on a ground nesting bird in the central hardwoods region of North America
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0147317
Volume 11
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description e0147317; 14 p.
First page 1
Last page 14
Country United States
State Arkansas
Other Geospatial White Rock Ecosystem Restoration Area