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Title: Successional dynamics and restoration implications of a montane coniferous forest in the central Appalachians, USA

Author: Schuler, Thomas M.; Collins, Rachel J.;

Date: 2002

Source: Natural Areas Journal 22(2):88-98

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Central Appalachian montane red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) communities have been greatly reduced in extent and functional quality over the past century. This community decline has put several plant and animal species, such as the endangered Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus Shaw), at risk from habitat loss, and has resulted in the elimination of these forests as a commercially important type. Where feasible, red spruce restoration efforts may help mitigate these regional trends and provide valuable lessons for community restoration efforts elsewhere. In a pilot study designed to better understand second-growth spruce structure, we inventoried trees and downed coarse woody debris in an isolated montane red spruce forest in West Virginia, USA. We quantified stand characteristics and compared them to structural characteristics of old-growth forest communities of similar composition. At this relict forest, stand initiation occurred in the early 1920s following a period of watershed-wide timber harvesting. Live tree basal area ≥ 10 cm dbh (44.5 m² ha-l), snag density ≥ 10 cm dbh (256 ha-1), and total fallen log volume (86.2 m³ ha-1) were similar to old-growth attributes. However, snag basal area ≥ 10 cm dbh (4.6 m² ha-l), height of dominant and co-dominant red spruce (24.7 m), and maximum red spruce dbh (48.0 cm) were significantly less than would be expected in old-growth forests of similar composition. Red spruce comprised > 40% of dominant crown class trees and often was a main canopy emergent. However, eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carr.) had the highest relative importance value (51.7%), with red spruce (18.0%) and red maple (Acer rubrum L.) (16.7%) representing lesser fractions. Stocking at 147% of threshold full stocking was correlated with slow growth rates for red spruce and eastern hemlock. Growth and yield simulations indicated current conditions would support a thinning in smaller size classes that could accelerate individual tree growth rates and decrease time required to attain additional old-growth structural characteristics.

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Schuler, Thomas M.; Collins, Rachel J. 2002. Successional dynamics and restoration implications of a montane coniferous forest in the central Appalachians, USA. Natural Areas Journal 22(2):88-98


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