Term of Award

Winter 2002

Degree Name

Master of Science

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Lissa M. Leege

Committee Member 2

Ralph Costa

Committee Member 3

Stephen Vives

Abstract

The maintenance of adequate, high-quality foraging habitat is crucial to the recovery of populations of the federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker (.Picoides borealis). The Technical/Agency Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Redcockaded Woodpecker (Picoides borealis) (USFWS 2000) sets the most comprehensive guidelines yet available for the management of Red-cockaded Woodpecker foraging habitat. However, the complete guidelines have yet to be evaluated for any large population. Therefore, I tested the hypothesis that Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters on Fort Stewart, Georgia, in compliance with the 2000 guidelines would have higher reproductive success than those not in compliance. I measured habitat within 800 m of the biological center of 65 Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters and recorded reproductive success (eggs, fledglings) within those clusters from 1998-2001. On average, Fort Stewart Red-cockaded Woodpecker clusters had 93 ha of potential foraging habitat available. When habitat characteristics were averaged over the entire foraging area, compliance with the guidelines for any one variable did not improve Red-cockaded Woodpecker reproductive success, and the total number of habitat variables for which a cluster was compliant was also unrelated to variation in reproductive success. The total number of ha/cluster that met the 2000 Recovery Plan foraging habitat guidelines were more likely to be related to reproductive success, but individual habitat variables still accounted for less than 10% of the variation in reproductive success. Compliance with the 2000 foraging habitat guidelines within 400 m did not significantly improve explanation of variation in reproductive success. Although the 2000 Recovery Plan guidelines do identify habitat features that are important for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, these features were not strongly related to variation in reproductive success at Fort Stewart (particularly fledgling success). I suggest that this may be due to the limited range of habitat available on Fort Stewart (a relative paucity of clusters with high-quality habitat) or to the fact that aggressive management (including artificial cavities, recruitment clusters, and translocations) makes it more difficult to detect the direct effects of habitat. Overall, my results suggest that the 2000 Recovery Plan guidelines should not be applied as a day-to-day threshold for determining habitat suitability among clusters, but they probably set a viable target for long-term habitat management at the population and landscape levels.

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