Forest Composition, Regeneration, and Tree Quality in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia: Selective Cutting vs. Shelterwood
Ryan, Suzanne Michelle
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This study compared the effects of selective cutting (SC) and the first shelterwood (SW) cut in oak (Quercus)-dominated forests of western Virginia. The specific attributes compared were: (1) tree species composition; (2) seedling, sapling, and overstory tree density; (3) overstory tree quality and size; (4) sapling crown class; and (5) canopy closure. Seedlings, saplings, and overstory trees were sampled at 22 SC and 28 SW sites. Significant differences identified between the two harvest types included: biodiversity of overstory and seedling layers; species densities for seedlings, saplings, and overstory trees; species composition across forest layers; and average canopy closure. Regeneration was poorer on SC than on SW, especially among oak species where SC oak seedling density averaged 5,651 stems ha-1 and SW oak seedling density averaged 9,843 stems ha-1. Selective cutting and SW may both contribute to mesophication of oak-dominated forests in the southern Appalachian Mountains; however, SC resulted in a higher percentage of mesic species post-harvest, and the SW tended to have more oak regeneration.
General Audience Abstract
Selective cutting in the form of high-grading (harvesting only the most valuable trees in a forest) and diameter-limit cutting (harvesting all merchantable trees in a forest above a designated diameter at breast height) is the predominant timber harvest practice in the southern Appalachian Mountains. It is contributing to a shift in forest composition away from oak species toward tree species of lower commercial and wildlife value. In this study, although there were fewer seedlings and saplings after selective cuts than after shelterwoods (a partial harvest of trees aimed at encouraging the regeneration of desirable tree species such as oaks in the future forest), there was higher tree species diversity among the seedlings and saplings at selective cutting sites than at shelterwoods. Oak regeneration remains a challenging goal to meet, but silvicultural systems such as shelterwoods that are designed to promote oak regeneration are likely to be more successful than selective cutting at maintaining oak dominance in this forested region.
- Masters Theses