Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Michael Davis, PhD.

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract

The longleaf pine forest is characterized by the high levels of biodiversity and species richness that give it both ecological and economical importance. Decades of clear-cutting, habitat fragmentation, and natural fire restriction have reduced this once great forest system to a mere fraction of its original range. One of the specific causes of the decline of the longleaf pine is understory domination by woody shrubs. These shrubs limit the growth of characteristic grasses and forbs that are responsible for the majority of the biodiversity. The overall purpose of this study was to identify a new longleaf pine reforestation technique that reduces the pervasive presence of Ilex glabra, a woody shrub that can be commonly found dominating the forest floor of many longleaf pine systems. In order to decrease I. glabra ground cover, this study combined prescribed fire regimes with cattle grazing. It was hypothesized that prescribed fire, followed shortly by cattle grazing will reduce the stem density of I. glabra in a manner that is more successful than utilizing fire or cattle alone. The hypothesis was tested by establishing three treatment sites and one control site throughout 160 acres of longleaf pine forest in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The three treatment sites included prescribed fire only, prescribed fire combined with cattle grazing, and cattle grazing only. Each site was subdivided into a series of permanent, 2m2 sampling plots. I. glabra stem counts, maximum stem height measurements, and stem diameter measurements were completed prior to a prescribed burn in 2016. Two weeks post-burn, cattle were moved onto their designated sites and left to graze for two months. The number of new sprouts that grew from each burned stem was then quantified and recorded for each corresponding stem. After statistical analysis, it was found that prescribed burning significantly increases I. glabra stem v density and that the addition of cattle grazing has no significant effect on stem density. It was concluded that prescribed fire combined with cattle crazing is not an effective reforestation technique in regard to understory management of I. glabra.

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