Exotic Invasive Plants on Private Woodlands of Virginia: Effects on forest composition, structure, and wildlife habitat
Aksamit, Dawn N.
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Exotic invasive plants have become a significant issue in the Southeastern United States for private landowners. These plants possess characteristics that allow for rapid growth and easy adaptation to many growing conditions, often outcompeting native vegetation and altering wildlife habitat, especially in disturbed areas. Disturbance, including access roads, trails, harvest sites, powerline corridors, and fence rows, is common on private land. Private landowners are often left to combat these problems without many monetary or expertise resources that are available to federal lands. Three field sites, each in a different physiographic province in Virginia, were surveyed for exotic invasive populations and sampled with nested overstory, understory, and regeneration plots and wildlife point intercept transects using paired plots during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Species richness of the overstory and understory did differ, but native percent understory cover and sapling density remained unchanged. Tree density and forest basal area were reduced with presence of exotic invasive plants. Regeneration diversity and density decreased in areas of exotic plant invasion. Eastern cottontail habitat suitability increased with the presence of exotic invasive plants. Suitability of habitat for the gray squirrel, downy woodpecker food, black-capped chickadee reproduction, and eastern wild turkey cover declined with the occurrence of exotic invasive plants. Twenty three of thirty seven total invasive plots were within twenty feet of a disturbance area. Continual assessment of impacts will help provide a better understanding of the nature of exotic invasive plants to landowners and may help them to manage and prevent plant invasions.
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