An Analysis of the Ecology and Public Perception of Coarse Woody Debris in Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Coarse woody debris (CWD) is an important habitat component for wildlife, fish, and plants and is important in nutrient cycling and soil formation. Knowledge of the volume, distribution, and use of CWD across Virginia would be useful to forest managers modeling nutrient budgets in southeastern forests and is important to wildlife management efforts. Knowledge of the effectiveness of informational brochures and cooperative learning activities/presentations at influencing public perception of CWD is important to program design and evaluation efforts in teaching and extension. The objectives of this study were to quantify the relationship between forest cover type and CWD volume, correlate CWD volume with small mammal and bird activity, distribute information on the advantages and disadvantages of CWD using informational brochures and cooperative learning activities/presentations, and compare the effectiveness of such teaching techniques at influencing public perception of CWD. The volume and wildlife use of CWD was assessed within 12 mature second-growth stands in Virginia. Volume of CWD was measured using fixed-area plots. Use of CWD by small mammals and birds was assessed by noting bodily, foraging, or movement evidence. Pre- and post-survey instruments were used to evaluate how perceptions were altered in first year college students who either reviewed an informational brochure or participated in a cooperative learning activity/presentation. Results suggested that the management of CWD for wildlife was most needed in southeastern Virginia where CWD volumes were lowest and that the value of CWD for wildlife was best conveyed through cooperative learning activities/presentations and may be important to landowner education efforts. Results suggested that management efforts to increase CWD volumes in Virginia should focus on coniferous dominated stands where CWD volumes were lowest. Such a finding, combined with the knowledge that the value of CWD was best conveyed through presentations, suggests that landowners of coniferous woodlots could be effectively educated with presentations. Given that brochures were more effective for females than males, brochures addressing natural resource issues might be the most appropriate, cost effective method of education at events that target female audiences. Knowledge gained from this study that CWD management for wildlife would be most appropriate in western Virginia where CWD was most used by wildlife for travel and that presentations were most effective at reaching suburban participants may be important to outreach program design efforts. Regardless of academic major, presentations were more effective at generating positive attitudes toward CWD. The results of this study suggest that the choice between informational brochures and presentations for influencing public perceptions of CWD will likely be influenced by the demographics of the target audience and the relevance of the topic locally.



Wildlife use, Perception of forestry, Coarse woody debris