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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law