Relationships Between Herpetofaunal Community Structure and Varying Levels of Overstory Tree Retention in Northern Alabama: First-year ResultsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Forest managers are increasingly considering the effects their decisions have on the biodiversity of an area. However, there is often a lack of data upon which to evaluate these decisions. We conducted research to examine the relationship between silvicultural techniques, particularly shelterwood cuts with varying levels of basal area retention, and the community structure of amphibians and reptiles in the Cumberland Plateau of northern Alabama. We have implemented five levels of basal area retention at 15 plots (4 ha per site): 0 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, and control (100 percent) with three replicates each. Drift fences with pitfall and funnel traps, and coverboards were used to quantify herpetofauna at each site. We predicted that plots with high basal area would provide better conditions for amphibians, sites with low basal area would be more favorable for reptiles, and sites with intermediate basal area would contain the most structurally and climatically complex habitats, and thus the highest species richness of herpetofauna. Our research will provide both a theoretical framework furthering our understanding of factors affecting the distribution and abundance of these organisms and applicable data that may be used to assist forest managers in sustaining these communities.