Reptile and amphibian response to use of herbicides in mid-rotation loblolly pine plantations

Results were recently published from a long-term study of biodiversity response to the use of fire and herbicides in mid-rotation loblolly pine plantations in Mississippi. The paper, which focuses on response of reptiles and amphibians, is titled “Summer Herpetofaunal Response to Prescribed Fire and Herbicide in Intensively Managed, Mid-Rotation Pine Stands in Mississippi.” The paper was authored by Ray Iglay and Bruce Leopold of Mississippi State University, and Darren Miller of Weyerhaeuser NR Company.

They conclude that “prescribed fire combined with imazapyr can reduce hardwood midstory competition and perpetuate open forest landscapes within an intensively managed pine matrix.” Weyerhaeuser, NCASI, and others supported the research.

The abstract of the paper follows.

“Managers of commercial forests are increasingly expected to incorporate conservation of biodiversity in forest management plans, but a paucity of information exists regarding herpetofaunal responses to mid-rotation release practices of dormant-season prescribed fire and selective herbicide in intensively managed pine (Pinus spp.) stands. However, these management tools have demonstrated capabilities of improving conservation value in these forests in the southeastern United States. Therefore, we investigated summer herpetofaunal responses to factorial combinations of dormant-season prescribed fire and a commonly used herbicide (imazapyr) with a randomized complete block design of 6 mid-rotation pine stands with 4 experimental units in Mississippi, USA, to which we applied at random 1 of 4 treatments (i.e., burn only, herbicide only, burn+herbicide, control). We captured 814 reptiles and 3,699 amphibians of 17 and 16 species, respectively, using drift-fence arrays during May and June, 1999–2007. Herpetofaunal assemblages only differed between burn+herbicide and control plots in 2002. Species-specific responses were limited to differences across years within treatments and greater eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) relative abundance in burned or herbicide-treated sites soon after treatment. Furthermore, herpetofaunal associations with measured environmental variables (e.g., vegetation structure and biomass and trap-site characteristics) did not indicate that treatment influenced fluctuations in species relative abundances. Consistent with past studies, forest managers of commercial pine forests using dormant-season prescribed fire with or without imazapyr will most likely have minimal additional effects on herpetofaunal assemblages, but current knowledge gaps require additional research to better understand mechanisms of species abundance and persistence in these landscapes.”


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R.B. Iglay, B.D. Leopold, and D.A. Miller. 2013. Summer herpetofaunal response to prescribed fire and herbicide in intensively managed, mid-rotation pine stands in Mississippi. Wildlife Society Bulletin 38:33–42.