Ecological Impact of Glaze Storm Damage in an Appalachian Oak Forest

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Virginia Tech

Glaze damage to canopy trees, gap size and seedling regeneration was surveyed relating to site topographic features after a major glaze storm at Fishburn Forest in the central Appalachian mountain region. The survey sites were stratified according to aspect and landform, and sample plots were randomly assigned to each topographic category. The canopy trees in the plots were tallied and their damage was visually classified.

The results demonstrated that different species had different susceptibilities to glaze damage and susceptibility of species varied as topography changed. Virginia pine was the most susceptible species. In general, trees had the greatest damage on steep slopes and eastern aspects, and least damage on toe-slopes. Some species varied greatly in their susceptibility to glaze damage across the topographic categories, such as red maple, while some species varied little, like blackgum. Basal area was reduced 6% and varied due to species and topography.

Where glaze damage was severe, gaps in the forest canopy were created. Gap sizes and the effects of gap size and topography on seedling regeneration within gaps caused by glaze damage were assessed. Seedlings were tallied by species and height in microplots within each sample plot and in the nearest gap, where gap size was measured. Gap size varied from 14,000 m2 to less than 20 m2. Average gap size was 255 m2. Canopy tree damage, forest type and topography were the most important factors affecting gap size. Gaps tended to be larger on steep backslopes. Common seedling species in both gaps and understory were sassafras, serviceberry and red maple. Disturbance affected both seedling height and density, as did topography. However gap size had effect only on seedling height. The future forest in this area is unlikely to change significantly, as species composition of seedlings was largely unaffected by the glaze storm damage.

Appalachian forests, Tree susceptibility, Glaze damage, Seedling regeneration