Evaluation of habitat management practices at mid-rotation is needed for pine (Pinus spp.) plantations enrolled in cost-share programs. Plantations established in abandoned agricultural fields may have different understory plant communities than those with a long history of forest cover. Mid-rotation pine plantations often have a hardwood midstory that limits development of early succession habitat components important to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus; deer) and northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus; bobwhite). We treated with imazapyr herbicide and prescribed burning (HB) 11 thinned, 13–22-year-old pine plantations in the Upper East Gulf Coastal Plain of Mississippi, USA, enrolled in cost-share programs, and we sampled plant community response during the summers of 2003 and 2004, years 1 and 2 posttreatment. The HB treatment created a more open structure with greater coverage of debris and herbaceous plants than in controls. Increased forb coverage in HB plots yielded a more seasonally diverse foraging base for deer. Horizontal screening cover developed slowly in HB plots and was more abundant in control plots. Autumn and winter food-plant coverage for bobwhite was provided by either treatment, but accessibility was improved in HB plots relative to controls. Bobwhite nesting cover was improved by HB relative to controls but was still of marginal quality. Brood-rearing habitat was precluded in both treatments due to lack of bare ground. Our results indicate that imazapyr followed by prescribed fire is a beneficial tool for creating early succession habitat for deer and bobwhite in mid-rotation pine plantations with a history of agricultural use. Continued management with periodic prescribed fire and overstory thinning should be instituted to maintain and perhaps improve these conditions.
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Vol. 73 • No. 7