Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Virginia
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

K, R. Mahoney, K. R. Russell, W. M.Ford , J.L. Rodrigue, J.D. Riddle, T.M. Schuler and M.B. Adams. 2015. Woodland salamander responses to a shelterwood harvest-prescribed burn silvicultural treatment within Appalachian mixed-oak forests. Forest Ecology and Management. 359:277-285


Forest management practices, including prescribed fire and timber harvests that mimic natural canopy disturbances reduce competition from non-oak woody plants, allow release of oak (Quercus spp.) advance regeneration, and facilitate establishment of new oak seedlings or stump sprouts. However, with the absence of fire in the central Appalachian region for almost a century, responses of woodland salamanders to timber removal coupled with prescribed fire in these deciduous forests are relatively unknown. The purpose of our research was to determine woodland salamander responses to previously burned shelterwood harvested stands in a West Virginia mesophitic mixed-oak forest. Woodland salamanders were surveyed using coverboard arrays in May, July, and August–September 2011 and 2012. Surveys were conducted within fenced shelterwood (prescribed fires, shelterwood harvest, and fencing to prevent white-tailed deer [Odocoileus virginianus] herbivory), shelterwood (prescribed fires and shelterwood harvest), and control (neither prescribed fire nor shelterwood harvest) plots. Relative abundance of salamanders was modeled in relation to habitat variables measured within treatments for mountain dusky salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus), slimy salamanders (Plethodon glutinosus), and red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus). Mountain dusky salamander relative abundance was positively associated with canopy cover and there were significantly more individuals within controls than either shelterwood or fenced shelterwood treatments. Conversely, habitat variables associated with slimy salamanders and red-backed salamanders did not differ among treatments. Overall, the woodland salamander assemblage remained relatively intact throughout the shelterwood-burn management practice compared to previous research within the same study area that examined pre-harvest fire effects. However, because of the multi-faceted complexities of this specific forest management technique, continued research is warranted that evaluates long-term, additive impacts on woodland salamanders within managed central Appalachian deciduous forests because of the multi-faceted complexities of this specific forest management technique.