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Influence of fire on mammals in eastern oak forests

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Keyser, Patrick D.; Ford, W. Mark

Year Published

2006

Publication

In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 180-190.

Abstract

With the exception of small mammals, little research has been conducted in eastern oak forests on the influence of fire on mammals. Several studies have documented little or no change inrelative abundance or community measures for non-volant small mammals in eastern oak (Quercus spp.) forests following fires despite reductions in leaf litter, small woody debris, and changes in understory and midstory composition and structure. Other studies have documented short-term improvements in quantity and quality of forage for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), but none has demonstrated changes in population parameters. For other mammal species there are no explicit studies and influences must be based on inferences from other research. We suggest that species that prefer partially open canopies, herbaceous understories, reduced midstories, or savannah habitats likely will prosper in the presence of fire. Fire has the potential to both recruit as well as eliminate den sites and cavity trees; burning regimes and fire intensity likely will determine outcomes. Species of high conservation concern, such as the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and some subspecies of fox squirrels (Sciurus niger), should benefit from increased fire in these landscapes. An insidious consequence of continued preclusion of fire in oak systems is the loss of structure and the change in vegetative species composition to more fire-intolerant species.

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Citation

Keyser, Patrick D.; Ford, W. Mark. 2006. Influence of fire on mammals in eastern oak forests. In: Dickinson, Matthew B., ed. 2006. Fire in eastern oak forests: delivering science to land managers, proceedings of a conference; 2005 November 15-17; Columbus, OH. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 180-190.

Last updated on: November 14, 2006