The focus of resource management on National Forests is slowly changing to restoration of ecosystems and habitats. In West Virginia, the revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) guides resource management on the MNF. The MNF revised Forest Plan restructured management areas and goals toward restoration of red spruce dominated forests and oak and oak-pine forests in two separate management prescriptions that cover approximately 48% of the MNF. Incorporating ecosystem restoration in forest management may be guided by goals and objectives based on known previous conditions and the range of natural variability of those conditions. The research presented here addresses: 1) the historical distribution and site-species relationships of tree species through the analysis of witness trees from the MNF, 2) stand dynamics of oak-dominated forest types in response to three disturbances, and 3) landscape patterns resulting after simulated restoration actions in high-elevation red spruce-dominated forest types.
A database of witness trees taken from land grants or deeds of what was to become the MNF was analyzed for species patterns of occurrence at the time of European settlement. Across the study area, white oak was the most frequent witness tree, followed by sugar maple, American beech, and American chestnut, however none of these were evenly distributed. Red spruce, hemlock, birch, American beech, magnolia, basswood, sugar maple, ash, northern red oak, and black cherry were all associated with higher elevations. Moderate elevations supported maple, pine, white pine, American chestnut, chestnut oak, and scarlet oak. Low elevation sites with high moisture were more likely to support black walnut, white oak, elm, and sycamore.
Three disturbance factors thought to influence the development of seedling and sapling layers of oak dominated hardwood forests were applied alone and in combination on experimental plots in a second-growth forest in eastern West Virginia. In all, eight treatments were applied: Fire, Fence, Gap, Control, Fire+Fence, Fire+Gap, Fence+Gap, and Fire+Gap+Fence. Oak seedlings were not affected by any factor other than time; oak saplings were negatively affected by fire and positively affected by fences. Red and striped maple seedlings and saplings were reduced by fire treatments however sugar maple seedlings and saplings were not. Black birch seedlings increased as fire stimulated germination of the seed bank. Creating gaps alone did not increase the seedling relative abundance or importance value of any of the species assessed here, although gaps when combined with other factors did increase black birch and yellow-poplar seedling relative abundances and sapling importance values.
An existing landscape-sale model (LANDIS-II) was used to create management scenarios that implement possible red spruce restoration actions consistent with the MNF Forest Plan. Three harvest scenarios and one succession only scenario were simulated for 100 years. Harvests for all three scenarios were patch cuts of 1 ha with partial removal of selected species and cohorts. Harvest scenarios modeled were: allowing harvest in all areas (S1), restrict harvest to areas of low to moderate probability of Virginia northern flying squirrel habitat only (S2), and allow harvest in all areas but exclude stands with 30% or greater red spruce 80 years or greater in age (S3); scenario 4 (S4) is succession only. The resulting stands were summarized by age classes and forest types used in the MNF Forest Plan and compared to age class goals. All scenarios resulted in the percentage of 1-19 year age class below the Forest Plan goal; however S3 was the closest at about 2% in the third decade. At year 30, the three harvest scenarios result in greater area in 20-39 year age class compared to succession only. Scenario 3 meets or slightly exceeds the lower limit of the MNF Forest Plan goal for this age class in years 40 through 70. For the 40-79 year age class, S1 and S3 remained well above S2 and the succession-only scenario in years 30 through 90. At the end of the model period, S1, S2, and S4 meet the MNF Forest Plan goal for this age class. During decades three through nine, S1 and S3 resulted in a consistent 40% of the area in the 80-119 year age class. All scenarios result in a landscape with much higher percentages of this age class than the MNF Forest Plan goal. For the last two decades of the model, the succession-only scenario results in greater amounts of area in the oldest age class (120 or greater years) as compared to the harvest scenarios.
|School:||West Virginia University|
|School Location:||United States -- West Virginia|
|Source:||DAI-B 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Forest restoration, Monongahela National Forest, Prescribed fires, Witness trees|
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