Reversing legacy effects in the understory of an oak-dominated forest
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Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 44(4): 350-364.
Current forests developed under conditions different from original forests, with higher deer densities, reduced fire frequency, denser canopies, and smaller canopy gaps. These alterations have led to understories dominated by species simultaneously browse tolerant, shade tolerant, and fire sensitive leading to difficulties in the regeneration of oak species (Quercus spp.) in some areas. We evaluated how three key processes understory fire, canopy gaps, and browsing influenced tree species in east central West Virginia. We were particularly interested in the response of oak species because they are the dominant overstory species and of maple species (Acer spp.), black birch (Betula lenta L.), and yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) as these are likely to replace the current forest. Single-process effects were significant and significant interactions among processes were numerous. In general, fire caused significant reductions of seedlings and saplings of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) and striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum L.) and increased the seedlings of black birch and yellow-poplar. Canopy gaps increased the abundance of black birch and yellow-poplar seedlings and saplings. Gaps and fire together caused an increase in the relative abundance of yellow-poplar. Excluding browsers and creating canopy gaps together nearly doubled oak sapling importance values versus either treatment alone; however, oak importance values remained low. Given the significant interactions of browse control with the other two processes, browse control should be considered when planning oak regeneration treatments such as canopy gaps or prescribed fire.
Keywordsdisturbance ecology; succession; deer browse; prescribed fire; regeneration
Thomas-Van Gundy, Melissa; Rentch, James; Adams, Mary Beth; Carson, Walter. 2014. Reversing legacy effects in the understory of an oak-dominated forest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 44(4): 350-364. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2013-0375.