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28 August 2020 Vegetation management on private forestland can increase avian species richness and abundance
Jesse M. Wood, Amy K. Tegeler, Beth E. Ross
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Conservation efforts on private lands are important for biodiversity conservation. On private lands in South Carolina, in the southeastern United States, forestry management practices (prescribed burning, thinning, herbicide application) are used to improve upland pine habitat for wildlife and timber harvest and are incentivized through U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Bill cost-share programs. Because many forest-dependent avian species have habitat requirements created primarily through forest management, data are needed on the effectiveness of these management activities. We studied privately owned loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stands in the South Carolina Piedmont region. Our objective was to understand how management practices influence avian species richness and abundance at local (forest stand) and landscape levels in relatively small stands (average ∼28 ha). We surveyed 49 forest stands during 2 bird breeding seasons with traditional point counts and vegetation surveys. We evaluated the effects of management on pine stand characteristics, avian species richness, and abundance of state-designated bird species of concern. Repeated burning and thinning shifted stand conditions to open pine woodlands with reduced basal area and herbaceous understories. Stands with lower basal area supported greater avian species richness. Some species increased in abundance in response to active management (e.g., Brown-headed Nuthatch [Sitta pusilla] and Indigo Bunting [Passerina cyanea]), but relationships varied. Some species responded positively to increases in forest quantity at a landscape scale (1–5 km; e.g., Northern Bobwhite [Colinus virginianus]). We found species-rich avian communities and species of conservation concern on working timber lands, indicating that incentivized forest management on private lands can provide valuable habitat for wildlife.


  • Private timber lands can provide important habitat for birds, especially when landowners create open forest conditions.

  • We surveyed birds and vegetation in southeastern U.S. loblolly pine forests in 2017 and 2018.

  • Forests managed differently, for example with different numbers of burns, had different structures and compositions and supported different bird totals—both in numbers and types of species.

  • We identified varying factors for different species' abundances from stand basal area to the forest extent (≤5 km).

Published by Oxford University Press for the American Ornithological Society 2020. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.
Jesse M. Wood, Amy K. Tegeler, and Beth E. Ross "Vegetation management on private forestland can increase avian species richness and abundance," The Condor 122(4), 1-16, (28 August 2020).
Received: 6 September 2019; Accepted: 27 July 2020; Published: 28 August 2020
avian communities
loblolly pine
private land management
species abundance
USDA farm bill
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