The impacts of seven silvicultural alternatives on vascular plant community composition, structure, and diversity in the southern Appalachians
Wender, Bryan William
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The effects of seven silvicultural prescriptions were examined one full growing season post-treatment on five sites in the Ridge and Valley, Cumberland Plateau, and Allegheny Plateau of Virginia and West Virginia. Prescriptions were (1) control, (2) understory control with herbicide, (3) group selection, (4) high-leave shelterwood, (5) low-leave shelterwood, (6) leave tree, and (7) clearcut. The effects of each treatment on the vascular plant community were characterized by changes in species diversity, species composition, exotic species richness, Raunkiaer's life-forms, and growth-forms. Pre-treatment, baseline data, and a randomized block design ensured the precision of post-treatment comparisons. High-disturbance treatments (i.e., low-leave shelterwood, leave tree, clearcut) exhibited lower tree-stratum species richness than unharvested treatments. Prescriptions had no effect on shrub-stratum richness. Compared to the control, woody, herb-stratum richness was higher in harvested treatments. Non-woody herb-stratum richness was unaffected. No differences in herb-stratum species diversity were detected using Shannon's (exp H') or Simpson's (1/D) indices. Non-woody species richness per 2-ha treatment plot was significantly higher than the control for high-disturbance treatments. Pre- vs. post-treatment species composition was least similar for high-disturbance treatments, as measured by qualitative and quantitative community similarity indices. Exotic woody species richness was unaffected by treatment; however, non-woody exotic species were more prevalent in high-disturbance treatments. Hemicrytophytes replaced phanerophytes as the most important life-form for harvested treatments. Therophytes were more important in harvested treatments, while the proportion of cryptophtes and chamaephytes did not change in response to treatments. Tree and shrub growth-forms were less dominant in harvested treatments, while graminoids and annual/biennial forbs were more important for high-disturbance treatments. These data represent only the initial results of a long-term study designed to examine plant-community response to silviculture for one harvest rotation length. Long-term results will aid in devising management strategies that address concerns for biodiversity without devaluing traditional resource demands.
- Masters Theses