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Influence of individual reserve trees on nearby reproduction in two-aged Appalachian hardwood stands

Miller, G.W., Kochenderfer, J.N., Fekedulegn, D.B.
Forest ecology and management 2006 v.224 no.3 pp. 241
forest trees, forest stands, stand management, stand structure, stand density, tree and stand measurements, tree growth, basal area, stand composition, Quercus rubra, Liriodendron tulipifera, spatial distribution, interspecific competition, plant competition, shade tolerance, hardwood, forest regeneration, West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest
In the 1970s, public opposition to clearcut harvesting in hardwood forests of the eastern United States led forest managers and scientists to consider alternative practices that retain a low-density overstorey forest cover. From 1979 to 1984, a form of clearcut-with-reserves harvesting was applied in 80-year-old Appalachian mixed-hardwoods to create four experimental stands with two-aged structures. Three stands are located on the Monongahela National Forest and one stand is located on the Fernow Experimental Forest in north-central West Virginia, USA. The residual stand basal area averaged 5.3 m2/ha, comprising an average of 36 reserve trees/ha. The reserve trees were evenly distributed throughout the stand, initially with considerable space between their crowns, thus providing the sunlight and seedbed conditions needed to recruit desirable shade-intolerant reproduction after harvest. This study examined the response of the 100-year-old reserve trees and the development of the 20-year-old natural reproduction located in their immediate vicinity. Diameter at breast height (Dbh), height, and relative position were recorded for all reproduction ≥2.5 cm within transects adjacent to northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) reserve trees. Each transect was divided into five zones, which represented positions relative to the reserve tree crown edge, and basal area was computed for each of three shade tolerance classes within each zone. A repeated measures ANOVA was used to compare basal area of reproduction by tolerance classes and zone. In general, basal area of reproduction, particularly that of shade-intolerant species, increased with distance from the reserve tree. Regression analyses also indicated that dbh and height of reproduction was positively related to distance from the reserve trees. Although height growth of reserve trees was similar for both species, northern red oak exhibited significantly greater dbh and crown radial growth than yellow-poplar. The results indicated that reserve trees influence the growth rate and species composition of reproduction in their immediate vicinity. Basal area of reproduction increased from 10.1 to 17.7 m2/ha with increasing distance from the reserve trees. Basal area of intolerant species more than doubled along the same gradient. Basal area of reproduction in the two-age stands was 30-40% less than that observed in even-aged stands on similar growing sites, but the reduction was offset by growth of the reserve trees. The surface area covered by the reserve tree crowns increased approximately 88% for northern red oak and 44% for yellow-poplar. Since the sphere of influence of reserve trees increases over time, forest managers must consider their long-term impact on reproduction when prescribing clearcut-with-reserves harvests and other practices that involve retaining trees for many years.