Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Thesis

College

Agriculture

Department

Crop Science

First Advisor

Dr. S. Ray Smith Jr.

Abstract

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a native warm-season grass, has been investigated as a renewable energy crop that may provide viable wildlife habitat. This study investigated small mammal populations in switchgrass, hay, and corn to assess the relative habitat quality. Four, three-night trapping sessions were conducted at four locations in Kentucky using Sherman livetraps. Trapping occurred in spring (before first hay harvest), summer, fall (before switchgrass and corn harvest), and winter (post-harvest). Relative abundance of small mammals, calculated using a capture per unit effort index (per 100 trapnights), and mean taxonomic richness were used to compare habitats. Switchgrass had a significantly greater mean taxonomic richness than hay but not corn; however, four genera were captured in switchgrass and only two in corn. Switchgrass had a greater relative abundance of small mammals than hay during the summer, and corn and hay during the fall. Vegetative cover was positively correlated with relative abundance of small mammals. No-till corn and three year old switchgrass had a greater relative abundance of small mammals than conventionally tilled corn and two year old switchgrass, respectively. In conclusion, switchgrass stands managed as a renewable energy crop has the potential to be viable wildlife habitat for some small mammal species.

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