Thinning pines and removal of upland hardwoods

Removing Pine-April 2017Thinning of pine stands and removal of off-site upland hardwoods (mainly live oaks) has a large effect on all early successional species such as northern bobwhite, red cockaded woodpeckers, Bachman’s sparrows, gopher tortoises, and many others. Thinning of pines in an uneven-aged management regime improves ground cover by increasing grasses, herbaceous plants, and woody vegetation (hardwood saplings), due to increased light reaching the ground. This in turn reduces search/hunting efficiency for avian predators, while reducing perch sites. Upland hardwood removal also improves ground cover, for the same reasons, while reducing abundance of the meso-mammal nest predators (raccoons, opossums, armadillos, etc.) and arboreal reptiles (gray rat and corn snakes) due to decreased denning sites. These timber management practices increase adult annual survival, nest success, and juvenile/brood survival, which will bolster the abundance of the early successional species mentioned above.

Most of the properties in Red Hills region and the southeastern coastal plain that have wildlife management objectives, will thin pines on a 7-10 year return interval to maintain basal areas ranging from 40-60. Upland hardwood reduction is on a much longer return interval (20-50 years) depending on past land use, fire frequency, and mechanical and chemical applications to manage the hardwood component in the ground cover, and keep it from escaping into the mid-story and ultimately over-story of the forest.

In 2017, we initiated the initial phase of a pine thinning and hardwood reduction on approximately 650 acres of Tall Timbers. As part of a 5-year research project, the Game Bird Program, directed by Dr. Theron Terhune, is currently monitoring scores of species to quantify bobwhite response to hardwood reduction, and to better understand predator-prey interactions in relation to timber management. Kristen Malone, a University of Florida PhD candidate, is coordinating the field work by collecting data (pre, present, and post treatment) on demographics and  abundance of bobwhites, Bachman’s sparrows, meso-mammals, avian predators, small mammals (rats and mice), and reptiles(snake). Look for more information on this as data is compiled, analyzed, and summarized by the Game Bird Program.

Photo top right: Feller buncher thinning an upland pine system in an uneven-aged management regime to return forest to 40-60 basel area.

Gully_April before thinning

Above: Pre-hardwood reduction of an erosion gully made by past land use running through the upland pine system.

Gully_Aug after thinning

Above: Post-hardwood reduction of an erosion gully running through the upland pine system.

Eagle_April before

Above: Pre-Live oak reduction in an upland pine system which escaped fire ~ 30-50 years ago.

Eagle_Aug after

Above: Post-Live oak reduction in an upland pine system.

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