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Resource Management

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To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation. 

Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to foster desired plant growth. Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly.   Prescribed burning, mowing, experimental bio-control insect releases, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on national wildlife refuges.

Standardized ground and aerial wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys are conducted on some refuges throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Units are evaluated by how well they met habitat and wildlife use objectives. 

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process, and we hope you will take an active interest in the process, individually and as a community. 

The Comprehensive Conservation Plan provides overall guidance for management activities.  The Habitat Management Plan provides guidance for managing refuge land for wildlife.


Management:

Water Management/wetland restoration for wintering and nesting waterfowl, wading bird rookeries, and anadromous fish nurseries.

The Askew Green Tree Reservoir Project

The Askew Tract at Roanoke River NWR is a 1276-acre area of forested wetlands consisting of bottomland hardwood and cypress-tupelo swamp habitats.  The natural hydrology of these wetlands has been altered for many decades by a flood control project constructed in 1953, and is further affected by the creation of a series of roads and drainage canals from past logging activities that occurred up to the 1980’s.  FWS partnered with Ducks Unlimited in order to implement a hydrology restoration project to restore a more natural season water regime to about 400 acres of this tract.  Creation of three impoundments was completed in 2006.  Under ideal weather conditions as well as conducive Roanoke River water levels, the water flow in and out of the impoundments may be managed using flap gates, risers, and an existing water and pump system located at select locations along the refuge roads. 

The project goals include these benefits to trust species: 

  1. Waterfowl and waterbirds, insectivorous songbirds, forest dwelling birds all benefit from the maintenance of healthy herbaceous annual and perennial emergent vegetation during the growing season,
  2. The reduction of growing season floods, allowing for a more diverse forest that provides an abundance of hard and soft mast tree species to benefit all wildlife.
  3. The creation of winter waterfowl habitat consisting of shallow flooded wetlands.

 

Bottomland hardwood management.  

A habitat management plan was completed for the Refuge in 2013.  For the Roanoke River NWR the plan’s objectives center around improving forest structure and species diversity.    The Service acquired lands in the early 2000s with stands of hardwood and pine plantations scattered throughout an array of mixed hardwood forest communities.  The Refuge will be thinning the plantations in the near future with the ultimate goal of establishing a mixed hardwood stand that is representative of the natural floodplain forest communities.  Thinning operations will also be carried out in some of the more natural areas (non-plantation) in order to improve the vertical structure of the forest.  Currently there are areas where the mid-story or understory of the forest is lacking.  By opening up the canopy and allowing sunlight in, the understory and mid-story will be able to develop which will create a complex vertical structure that will provide nesting and foraging habitat as well as cover for a variety of wildlife species ranging from squirrels to several species of songbirds as well as white-tailed deer.    

Inventory and Monitoring:

As part of the inventory and monitoring program within the Service, the Roanoke River NWR staff carries out various surveys on an annual basis.  Data from these survey efforts are used on a local, regional and national level to detect changes in the wildlife populations the survey is targeted to. 

Every spring during the month of May bird surveys occur in the levee forests and hardwood plantations on the Refuge. Surveys in the hardwood plantations will serve as a baseline of what is present before the plantations are thinned.  It is one way we can determine how effective the thinning was to achieving our goal of improving habitat for wildlife.    Listed in order of abundance, the five most abundant bird species counted on plantation sites in 2013 were:  American redstart, Carolina wren, red-eyed vireo, Acadian flycatcher, common yellowthroat. The average number from previous years (2005 - 2012) indicates that the five most abundant species were:  American redstart, Acadian flycatcher, red-eyed vireo, Carolina wren, and blue gray gnatcatcher.  Bird surveys in the levee forests have been carried out every year since 1999 and we have been able to pick up local trends of bird populations.  For example, the prothonotary warbler has exhibited a downward trend in numbers for the last 10 years however in the past two years a slight increase has been noted.  Listed in order of abundance, the five most abundant bird species counted on the levee sites in 2013 were:  American redstart, Carolina wren, Northern cardinal, Eastern tufted titmouse, and the blue-gray gnatcatcher.  The average number from previous years (1999 - 2012) indicates that the five most abundant species were:  American redstart, Carolina wren, red‑eyed vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher, and Acadian flycatcher. 

During the months of June and July a microphone is fitted to an all terrain vehicle and approximately 5 miles of refuge roads are driven after sundown two times with a gap of 10 days between.  Attached to the microphone is an anabat detector, a device that is able to pickup the high frequency call of bats.  The anabat detectors are able to capture the high frequency bat echolocations and provide a means to digitally store and analyze the structural characteristics of the call so they can be identified to species.  Findings to date have detected the following bat species to be present:  big brown bat, eastern red bat, little brown bat, tricolored bat, evening bat and northern long-eared bat.  The tricolored bat was the most abundant followed by the eastern red bat.  One shortfall of surveying bats using this method is that the bat has to fly within 30 feet of the microphone and only those bats that may frequent open areas or roads are encountered.  In an effort to determine presence/absence and abundance  of those species found in the forest interior, the anabat device will be placed in the swamp forests and data will be collected and analyzed. 

 

 

Page Photo Credits — Sunset by Jacob Mills
Last Updated: Nov 21, 2014
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