Effects of Precommercial Thinning on Snowshoes Hares, Small Mammals and Forest Structure in Northern Maine
- Homyack, Jessica A.
University of Maine Graduate School
The extent of precommercial thinning (PCT) to manipulate stand density in overstocked, regenerating stands and to accelerate growth, yield, and the rate of development of crop trees has been increasing within the Acadian forest of northeastern North America. Although the silvicultural responses of crop trees to thinning are well studied, few studies have evaluated the effects of PCT on forest-dependent wildlife and their habitat. I investigated the effects of PCT and stand succession on snowshoe hares, small mammals, and forest structure on 38 stands (25 treated with PCT, 13 unthinned stands) from 1 to 16 years post-treatment within 7 townships in the commercial forests of northern Maine. Forest stands were clearcut from 1967-1983, treated with an aerial herbicide during 1977-1988, and treatment stands were manually thinned from 1984- 1999.
Densities of snowshoe hares were examined by establishing 46 km of pellet transect across 30 stands and live trapping a subset of 8 stands to determine the relationship between densities and estimated densities of hares. Densities of hares were linearly related to pellet densities from 0-3 hares/ha (P< 0.001). Two similar pellet X hare density regressions developed outside Maine did not perform well (AICc>10) and predictions from these regressions underestimated densities of hares. Unthinned stands had approximately 2x greater densities of hares than similar stands treated with PCT across stand age-classes, 2 years of sampling, and during leaf-off (October - May) and leaf-on (June-September) seasons (P< 0.10). Although densities of hares were lower in stands treated with PCT, thinned stands still maintained densities greater than stands managed using some alternative silvicultural regimes.
I examined the temporal effects of PCT on small mammals by live-trapping within 37 stands (24 treated with PCT) during June-August 2000 and 2001. Thinning increased [red-backed voles (Clethorionomys gapperi), P = 0.008; masked shrews (Sorex cinerus), P<0.001] or produced no detectable effect [deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), P = 0.544; short tailed shrews (Blarina breviclaudia), P = 0.517] on the 4 most abundant species of small mammals captured on my study areas; therefore, PCT was compatible with maintaining or enhancing densities of common species of forest dwelling small mammals in regenerating conifer stands.
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