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Long-term effects of post-harvest stump removal and N-fertilization on understory vegetation in Western USA forests

Kaye, Thomas N., Blakeley-Smith, Matt, Thies, Walter G.
Forest ecology and management 2008 v.256 no.4 pp. 732
understory, stumps, ammonium nitrate, fertilizer application, plant communities, shrubs, forbs, grasses, introduced species, colonizing ability, species diversity, vegetation cover, site preparation, coniferous forests, Northwestern United States
Intensive forest management practices often disturb understory vegetation, and the recovery of these plant communities may depend on the type and severity of the disturbance. We examined the effects of stump removal and N-fertilization on understory plant communities and functional group (shrubs, graminoids, forbs, and introduced species) cover and diversity at five study areas in the Pacific Northwest of North America 24-28 years after treatment. Treatments at each study area included stumped and non-stumped controls as well as four levels of broadcast ammonium nitrate (0, 336, 672, and 1345kgNha⁻¹) in all combinations. Stumping had significant effects on community composition at all sites, and several plant species were associated (p <0.05) with either controls or stumped plots. Diversity of graminoids, forbs and introduced species increased in stumped areas region wide. Stumping reduced cover and diversity of shrubs at some sites. Cover of graminoids and forbs also increased in stumped plots at some study areas. Forbs like Viola sempervirens were often indicators of stump removal while shrubs such as Acer circinatum tended to be associated with non-stumped plots. N-fertilization affected community composition at only one study area, and had no effects on cover or richness of functional groups. Stump removal has lasting impacts on plant communities and may make them more vulnerable to colonization by introduced species.