Habitat associations and management effects

The conservation-based management of Ichauway has sustained a landscape that supports many native wildlife species.

Our mature longleaf pine woodlands with their intact native ground cover provide a rare opportunity to study wildlife-habitat associations in detail. We have been able to link wildlife locations to specific structural components of longleaf woodlands, which can inform goals for longleaf pine restoration efforts.

Additionally, the site is managed with frequent prescribed fire and targeted mechanical removal of hardwoods to facilitate management with fire. We have implemented an adaptive silviculture experiment anticipating the effects of climate change on southeastern forests. Thus, we can also investigate the wildlife response to these management and restoration activities. Because Ichauway is actively managed for game species, small wildlife food plots are maintained throughout the property, which enables us to investigate wildlife use of food plots compared to natural vegetation.

Current studies within this theme include an investigation of the effects of natural disturbances on wildlife. We are examining the use of disturbance legacies such as damaged trees by wood-colonizing insects, and wildlife use of tree tip-ups, stumps, coarse woody debris, and animal burrows. In 2018, winds from Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage to the forests at Ichauway. This created an opportunity to examine the effects of a natural disturbance on the wildlife community. We are contrasting wildlife use and abundance in areas with differing levels of disturbance and downed trees that remain. There is a particular focus on the response of bark beetles and root-feeding insects to these patterns of disturbance.

Key Publications

Cherry, M. J., R. B. Chandler, E. P. Garrison, D. A. Crawford, B. D. Kelly, D. B. Shindle, K. G. Godsea, K. V. Miller and L. M. Conner. 2018. Wildfire affects space use and movement of white-tailed deer in a tropical pyric landscape. Forest Ecology and Management 409:161-169.
Conner, L. M., M. J. Cherry, B. T. Rutledge, C. H. Killmaster, G. Morris, and L. L. Smith. 2016. Predator exclusion as a management option for increasing white-tailed deer recruitment. Journal of Wildlife Management 80:162-170.
Gleim, E. R., G. E. Zemtsova, R. D. Berghaus, M. L. Levin, L. M. Conner, M. J. Yabsley. 2019. Frequent prescribed fires can reduce risk of tick-borne disease. Scientific Reports 9:9974 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-46377-4
Gleim, E. R., L. M. Conner, R. D. Bergaus, M. L. Levin, G. E. Zemstova, and M. J. Yabsley. 2014. The phenology of ticks and the effects of long-term prescribed burning on tick population dynamics in southwestern Georgia and northwestern Florida. PLoS ONE 9(11): e112174. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112174
Kirby, R. B., M. J. Cherry, L. I. Muller, R. J. Warren, M. J. Chamberlain, and L. M. Conner. 2016. Indirect predation management in a longleaf pine ecosystem: hardwood removal and the spatial ecology of raccoons. Forest Ecology and Management 381:327-334.
Little, A. R., J. F. Benson, M. J. Chamberlain, L. M. Conner, and R. J. Warren. 2016. Survival and cause-specific mortality of female eastern wild turkeys in two frequently-burned longleaf pine savannas. Wildlife Biology 22:238-245. pdf
Morris, G., and L. M. Conner. 2016. Effects of forest management practices, weather, and indices of nest predator abundance on nest predation: a 12-year artificial nest study. Forest Ecology and Management 366:23-31.
Steen, D. A., L. L. Smith, L. M. Conner, J. C. Brock, and S. K. Hoss. 2007. Habitat use of sympatric rattlesnake species within the Gulf Coastal Plain. Journal of Wildlife Management 71:759-764.