Birds that require early-successional habitat are declining in North America due to habitat loss. Their increasing reliance on anthropogenic landscapes, such as the extensive Pinus spp. (pine) plantations of the southeastern US, makes it important to assess how management alternatives within these forests influence habitat quality. We examined how 2 site preparation variables, tree row spacing (4.3 m vs. 6.1 m) and arrangement of post-harvest woody debris (piled vs. scattered), influenced species richness, abundance, and breeding activity of disturbance-dependent (early-successional) birds. We studied bird communities and vegetation structure during the first 5 years of growth on replicated plots in 4 intensively managed Pinus taeda (Loblolly Pine) plantations in Louisiana. We used model selection to determine which site-preparation and vegetation characteristics most influenced avian communities. All measures of bird communities responded positively as vegetation structure and cover increased over time. However, neither row spacing nor debris placement affected vegetation variables important to birds for at least for the first 5 years following stand establishment; bird communities responded to successional changes and variation among plots, but not to site preparation. Land managers seeking to provide early-successional habitat in recently established plantations for disturbance-dependent birds can do so by increasing structural complexity and groundcover through selective herbicide applications, mechanical treatments, or other means.
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Vol. 13 • No. 3