Date of Award

12-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Forestry

Major Professor

David S. Buckley

Committee Members

Craig A. Harper, Jack W. Ranney

Abstract

In 2000, a study was implemented at Chuck Swan State Forest and Wildlife Management Area to compare the effectiveness of prescribed burning, shelterwood cutting, wildlife thinning, and wildlife thinning with prescribed fire for improving wildlife habitat and enhancing oak regeneration. Treatments were implemented in four similar mixed hardwood stands with a northwest aspect.

In 2003, a follow-up study was conducted to:

1) document third-year effects of prescribed fire alone, wildlife thinning, wildlife thinning with prescribed fire, and shelterwood cutting on the density and size of oak regeneration and woody competitors,

2) quantify effects of prescribed fire alone, wildlife thinning, wildlife thinning with prescribed fire, and shelterwood cutting on understory composition and the development of understory structure,

3) investigate effects of deer browsing on plant response from prescribed fire alone, wildlife thinning, wildlife thinning with prescribed fire, and shelterwood cutting, and 4) document white oak acorn production within the control and shelterwood cutting and wildlife thinning treatments.

In 2003, the response of yellow poplar, sassafras, black cherry, blackgum, and sumac to the treatments was stronger than the response of oak, as evidenced by significant increases in the abundance of these competitors over oak, and no significant differences between treatments in the abundance of red and white oaks. Treatments did not significantly affect composition of herbaceous species, and this was likely due to the low overall abundance of herbaceous cover and high variability in the composition of herbaceous species within and between the replicate stands. Understory structure up to 101 cm (39.8 in) was significantly increased by the shelterwood, wildlife thinning, and wildlife thinning with prescribed fire treatments. However, this structure was mainly comprised of woody species. Effects of deer browsing on understory vegetation were not detected. Species richness and percent herbaceous cover did not differ between fenced and unfenced treatments. Mean values for white oak acorn production and crown size were highest in the wildlife thinning treatments. Differences in the means were not significant in 2003, but it appears that a trend is emerging. Future monitoring of deer browsing effects and white oak acorn production is warranted, and future work involving additional applications of prescribed fire and mechanical and chemical treatment of undesirable components of the woody understory would be useful with respect to oak regeneration and development of herbaceous species.

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