Mid-rotation management practices for pine (Pinus spp.) plantations enrolled in cost-share programs have not been widely evaluated for wildlife. Mid-rotation pine plantations often have a substantial hardwood mid-story that limits growth of desirable understory forage species important to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; deer). We treated with imazapyr herbicide and prescribed burning (HB) 11 thinned, 13–22-year-old loblolly pine (P. taeda) plantations in the Upper Coastal Plain (UCP; n = 5) and the Lower Coastal Plain (LCP; n = 6) of Mississippi, USA, enrolled in cost-share programs. We then sampled these plantations for production of important deer forages during July of 2003 and 2004, years 1 and 2 posttreatment. Deer foraging habitat was clearly improved by the HB treatment in both regions by year 2. Forb species of annual importance to deer increased in percent cover and biomass in the UCP and in biomass in the LCP. We estimated nutritional carrying capacity using a target diet quality of 14% crude protein; estimates in HB plots were 3 times greater than controls in the UCP and 19 times greater in the LCP. Although UCP sites had baseline carrying capacities nearly 8 times greater than LCP sites, the greater relative response to HB in the LCP eliminated the regional difference. Our results indicate that imazapyr herbicide treatment followed by prescribed fire is a beneficial tool for deer management in mid-rotation pine plantations.
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Vol. 73 • No. 5