New research findings support biodiversity of right-of-way habitat for breeding birds

Over the past three years, the State Game Lands 33 (SGL 33) research project in central Pennsylvania has added to decades of environmental studies regarding the impact of vegetation management strategies on resources. along utility rights-of-way (ROW), including various plant communities and wildlife groups.

In addition to ground beetles, snakes, and bee species, this research has recently focused on breeding bird populations and their responses to different vegetation management strategies. In recent years, breeding bird populations have declined significantly in the United States due to changing land use practices and the removal of natural disturbances that create early successional habitat for bird communities. native. That’s why SGL 33 researchers are committed to raising awareness of the benefits that a wireframe-boundary zone method can bring to integrated vegetation management (IVM) programs.

Since it was first tested in the early 1980s, IVM’s wireframe-boundary zone method has benefited early successional bird species on a number of plots across SGL 33 This notion was supported by a report recently provided by SGL 33 researchers with the State of Pennsylvania. University (PSU) to industry cooperators. The report details a number of key findings regarding breeding bird populations and their response to five different vegetation control methods commonly used to manage incompatible plant species in the utility right-of-way. In addition to mechanical mowing and manual cutting, the following herbicide treatments were applied to the SGL 33 plots in 2016:

Large volume sheets (non-selective)

Low volume sheets (selective)

low volume basal bark

The size of each test plot was approximately 3 acres at SGL 33, and each strategy tested was managed to include a 95-foot cable area and a 30-foot border area on either side of the power line corridors. transmission. As ideal landscapes for evaluating each control method and associated effects on breeding bird species, these plots have provided valuable data and information to utility vegetation managers working to improve electrical transmission reliability. as well as environmental sustainability for breeding birds and other wildlife.

The results of this research have generally favored the use of selective herbicide applications for biodiversity management over mechanical treatments or non-selective herbicide applications. Other notable learnings from the last three years of study include:

· Low-volume foliar and basal application sites with border zones contained greater abundance and richness of breeding birds than mechanically treated sites or sites without any border zone.

· Breeding bird abundance was consistently lower on sites treated with hand-cutting and mowing strategies.

· Higher abundance and richness of breeding birds have been noted in areas where selective herbicide treatments have been used as part of a GIV-based approach to wire and border zone management.

State Game Lands 33 Cooperator Research Report: 2018-2021.

In addition to sites managed with herbicides on SGL 33, additional sites on State Game Lands 103 in Center County, Pennsylvania were either comparable or more beneficial to breeding bird communities in terms of productivity and success. nesting than areas to which mechanical treatments have been applied. Another point to remember is that the establishment of a border zone can be largely responsible for the retention of large and diverse bird populations throughout the utility right-of-way. As the results of the last three years recorded as part of the SGL 33 research indicate, the presence of border zones – even narrow border zones – along the wire zone may be the most important predictor of various d nesting birds.

Using the right strategies can help utility vegetation managers protect not only utility infrastructure and electrical transmission reliability, but also habitat biodiversity. As a funding partner of SGL 33 research, Corteva Agriscience has launched HabitatWithHerbicides.com, a digital platform through which the organization regularly shares updates on SGL 33 research and success stories regarding the application of practices IVM in utility right-of-way corridors.

For more information and results from the past three years of SGL 33 research, access PSU’s 2021 Floral and Wildlife Research Report. The Utility Vegetation Management page produced by Corteva also provides additional information on best practices and recommendations for vegetation managers working to safeguard utility infrastructure and the environment.

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