Since 1985 considerable expanses of highly erodible cropland have been enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Areas enrolled in CRP provide wildlife habitat; however, habitat quality and specific resources on these sites vary in relation to seasonal biological processes of target wildlife species, planted cover and vegetation succession. Throughout the southeastern United States habitat quality for early successional species, such as northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), may decline as CRP grasslands age. Although disturbance may enhance and maintain habitat quality for bobwhite, concerns regarding perceived conflicts between wildlife habitat and soil erosion objectives of the CRP persist. During 1995 and 1996 we evaluated effects of strip-discing or prescribed burning on vegetation structure and composition and soil erosion in fescue (Festuca arundiacea) dominated CRP fields in Mississippi. Fall discing generally increased percentage bare ground and plant diversity and decreased percentage litter cover and litter depth. Fall discing enhanced bobwhite habitat quality, but responses diminished by the second growing season post treatment. Burning increased plant diversity and improved quality of habitat for bobwhite. Soil loss for all treatments was within United States Department of Agriculture tolerable limits. Discing or burning intensity on CRP fields could be increased without compromising soil erosion provisions of CRP.
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Vol. 149 • No. 2