Dendroecology and species co-existence in an old-growth Quercus-Acer-Tilia talus slope forest in the central Appalachians, USA

Marc David Abrams, Charles M. Ruffner, Thomas E. DeMeo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Scopus citations


Dendroecological techniques were used to examine the disturbance history and patterns of species recruitment in an old-growth Quercus rubra L (northern red oak)-Acer saccharum Marsh. (sugar maple)-Tiha americana L. (basswood) forest on a steep, talus slope in eastern West Virginia. The forest was uneven-aged as were the populations of red oak. Sugar maple dominated the sapling layer, which comprised little or no basswood and red oak. A compilation of major and moderate releases (indicative of disturbance) in 25 cores revealed single or multiple release events in every decade from 1870-1990. The high elevation of the forest coupled with a fertile sub-soil beneath the talus ameliorated the outwardly harsh conditions of the site, allowing for the domination of typically mesophytic, nutrient demanding tree species. We observed several fire scarred trees as well as extensive small-scale blow-down throughout the forest. Frequent disturbance events were probably crucial to the co-existence and continuous canopy recruitment of the relatively light demanding red oak with highly shade tolerant sugar maple and basswood. The strong successional replacement tendencies of red oak by northern hardwoods noted elsewhere in the eastern US may be less apparent on high elevation, rocky states in the central Appalachians. Thus, this is a unique case study of long-term red oak domination with later successional species in an old-growth forest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2 1998


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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