Date of Award

Summer 7-25-2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)

Department

Biology

Major Professor

Thomas McElroy

First Committee Member

Joel McNeal

Second Committee Member

Lisa Ganser

Abstract

Longleaf pine ecosystem decline in the Southeast United States has led to intensive land management implementation with the goal to benefit both the ecosystem and at-risk species. Addressing at-risk snake populations in these longleaf pine ecosystems, for instance, requires understanding both community and species level ecology of snakes in these managed forests. Data for snakes in the montane (mountain) longleaf pine habitats remains unclear since management practice implementation. Currently, intensive restoration of montane longleaf pine habitats is taking place within two Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in the Raccoon Creek Watershed of Northwest Georgia, Sheffield and Paulding Forest. These areas differ in both historic forest management and intensity of restoration for longleaf pine habitats. To survey these areas for snake diversity and abundance, we used drift fence trap arrays at six locations within the two WMAs, yielding a total of 85 captures representing nine species, including the five most frequently trapped species: Black racers (Coluber constrictor), copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus), Eastern hognose (Heterodon platirhinos), and timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus). Northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus), a taxon of concern in Georgia, was detected within both WMAs, along with evidence of recruitment of new individuals. Montane longleaf pine habitats in Sheffield WMA were found to support a significantly greater diversity of upland snake species than similar habitats in Paulding Forest. This study collected baseline data for the upland snake communities in this ecosystem and will inform restoration of this ecosystem.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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