Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Wildlife and Fisheries Resources
John W Edwards
Recent declines in myotis populations throughout the mid-Atlantic region due to habitat degradation and the spread of white-nose syndrome have led to the increased need for understanding of roost ecology to aid in population recovery. Land management agencies in the Central Appalachian Hardwood Region can contribute to the conservation and possible recovery of northern myotis through habitat creation by means of prescribed fire. Within the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, three separate compartments were subjected to prescribed fire to better understand the effects of disturbance on summer roost tree use. During the summer of 2011 and 2012, Northern myotis were captured using mist nets and attached with radio transmitters. In burned and unburned areas, 38 roost trees were located and measurements were taken on the individual roost tree and the area surrounding each roost tree, including species, size, canopy gap, distance to neighboring trees, aspect and slope at roost tree locations. Black locust was the most utilized tree species, followed by red maple and red oak. Roosts were located in trees with cavities, loose bark, and crevices; 57% of female and 40% of male roosts were in snags. Both female and male northern myotis were found roosting in burned and unburned areas, while female northern myotis used roosts surrounded with larger canopy gaps overhead. Roosts in unburned areas had a smaller percent canopy closure and were located on steeper slopes. Slope at roost locations was significantly different between both female and male roost locations as well as between roosts in burned areas and unburned areas. As the burned compartments within the FEF continue to decay and forest regeneration is allowed to progress, the effect of fire disturbance on roosting ecology can be better quantified and this may allow forest managers to develop predictive models for roost tree creation and use on a local and landscape scale. Snags with cavities and exfoliating bark are an important component of stand structure for wildlife in hardwood forests. Understanding changes in decaying trees over time is needed to manage cavity-dependent biota. I quantified short-term (2006 -- 2012) rates of initial tree death and progression through decay stages following fire and herbicide treatments initially applied in the spring of 2007 in the Alleghany Plateau of West Virginia. Red maple, chestnut oak, northern red oak and sugar maple were the most prevalent species found in measured plots. Northern red oaks were found to live the longest following fire treatment while black locusts were found to decay fastest after treatment. The greatest decline in trees in all treatments was in 2008, one year following initial fire and/or herbicide treatment, with a more gradual decline following in 2012. Transition of trees among decay classes differed by species and size. Prescribed fire alone had the least impact on overall mortality and decay progression for the treatments. Fire tolerance was also positively correlated with tree size, with yellow-poplar having the lowest mortality rate after prescribed fire treatment. Prescribed fire remained the least impactful treatment in rapid progression of trees through decay stages. Plots subjected to herbicide treatment for all non-oak and hickories found with >12.7 cm dbh showed a more rapid rate of decline than both fire only and midstory treatment areas. Snag longevity was significantly greater with increasing diameter for all treatments. Silvicultural practices that increase tree mortality rates and snag retention over long periods of time could be a beneficial approach to management for cavity-dependent wildlife in hardwood forests.
Karp, Milu, "Northern Myotis Roosting Ecology and Use of Prescribed Fire and Herbicide Treatment to Enhance Roost Availability in Hardwood Forests" (2013). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 4974.