An Evaluation of Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Restoration Efforts in the Ocala National Forest
University of Florida, 2012 - 102 pages
The relationship between red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) and their habitat in sandhill of Ocala National Forest (ONF) is not well understood. This unique region is the largest continuous forest of sand pine (Pinus clausa) scrub ecosystem with islands of longleaf pine (P. palustris) wiregrass (Aristida stricta) sandhills. While red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCWs) avoid sand pines, the longleaf pine habitat is ideal for RCWs when managed properly. This study indicated a positive response in woodpecker reproduction from management implementations such as 1-2 year rotation fire regime to minimize the midstory density, annual translocation of single and paired birds to help bolster small populations, continuous treatment of hardwoods through mechanical and chemical applications to reduce midstory heights and installing artificial cavities away from scrub ecotones but close to other establish RCWs. The most successful translocations were those conducted with paired, unrelated birds in close proximity to resident RCWs. Future prospects include expanding the ONF RCW population westward through habitat restoration and translocations. The expansion area has vegetation conditions very different from those that occur where the current RCW populations exist in ONF, so other national forests in Florida were explored through Geographical Information System data layers to find suitable and similar habitat that could estimate the carrying capacity of ONF's future expansion. I estimated this region of ONF could sustain 32 clusters if the habitat was managed properly. Results of this research should aid in prioritizing the type and location of future management actions that will most benefit RCWs in ONF.
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