Disturbance-succession models describe the relationship between the disturbance regime and the dominant tree species of a forest type. Such models are useful tools in ecosystem management and restoration, provided they are accurate. We tested a disturbance-succession model for the oak-pine (Quercus spp. - Pinus spp.) forests of the Appalachian Mountains region using dendrochronological techniques. In this model, fire promotes pines, while fire suppression, bark beetle outbreaks, and ice storms encourage oaks. We analyzed nine Appalachian oak-pine stands for species establishment dates and the occurrence of fires and canopy disturbances. We found no evidence that fire preferentially promoted the establishment of pine more than oak, nor did we find any evidence that canopy disturbances or periods of no disturbance facilitated the establishment of oak more than pine. Rather, we found that both species groups originated primarily after combined canopy and fire disturbances, and reduction of fire frequency and scope coincided with the cessation of successful oak and pine regeneration. Currently, heath shrubs are slowly dominating these stands, so we present a revised disturbance succession model for land managers struggling to manage or restore oak-pine forests containing a dense ericaceousunderstory.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change