Regeneration in bottomland forest canopy gaps 6 years after variable retention harvests to enhance wildlife habitatThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
To promote desired forest conditions that enhance wildlife habitat in bottomland forests, managers prescribed and implemented variable-retention harvest, a.k.a. wildlife forestry, in four stands on Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, LA. These treatments created canopy openings (gaps) within which managers sought to regenerate shade-intolerant trees. Six years after prescribed harvests, we assessed regeneration in 41 canopy gaps and 4 large (>0.5-ha) patch cut openings that resulted from treatments and in 21 natural canopy gaps on 2 unharvested control stands. Mean gap area of anthropogenic gaps (582 m²) was greater than that of natural gaps (262 m²). Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) and red oaks (Quercus nigra, Q. nuttallii, and Q. phellos) were common in anthropogenic gaps, whereas elms (Ulmus spp.) and sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) were numerous in natural gaps. We recommend harvest prescriptions include gaps with diameter >25 m, because the proportion of shade-intolerant regeneration increased with gap area up to 500 m². The proportion of shade-intolerant definitive gap fillers (individuals likely to occupy the canopy) increased with gap area: 35 percent in natural gaps, 54 percent in anthropogenic gaps, and 84 percent in patch cuts. Sweetgum, green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), and red oaks were common definitive gap fillers.