Effects of Mid-Rotation Release on Forest Structure, Wildlife Habitat, and Pine Yield
The effects of two forms of mid-rotation release on thinned, fertilized loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) plantations in Virginia were examined: aerial imazapyr and basal triclopyr application. Imazapyr measurement plots were installed in nine Piedmont and twelve Coastal Plain plantations operationally released with imazapyr, and triclopyr measurement plots were installed within a controlled fertilization/release study spanning both regions. No differences in volume were detected following triclopyr release. All release dates combined, Piedmont released areas averaged 0.06 m3/tree (18%) greater than the control and Coastal Plain released areas averaged 0.05 m3/tree (14%) greater than the control. Reductions in hardwood basal area, stem density, and shrub stratum cover were observed for both forms of release. Reductions in shrub stratum richness and diversity were also documented for imazapyr release; however, trends indicate that richness and diversity, as well as stem density and shrub stratum cover, may recover to pre-treatment levels. Herbaceous vegetation was increased on triclopyr sites, which was reflected in an elevated turkey (Meleagris gallopavo sylvestris L.) food/brood index. Following imazapyr release, habitat suitability index (HSI) values for pine warblers (Dendroica pinus L.) and black-capped chickadees (Parus atricapillus L.) increased due to reductions in canopy hardwoods and increases in snags. Reduced shrub stratum density resulted in a lower bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus L.) cover index on imazapyr-released areas.