Third-year responses of understory woody regeneration to fuel reduction treatments in the Southern Appalachian MountainsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
The effects of fuel reduction treatments, fire and mechanical understory removal (alone and in combination), were examined to determine changes in abundance and composition of woody regeneration in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. While mechanical treatment alone (M) had little effect on seedling density, burning (B) and mechanical treatment + burning (MB) produced a significant increase. Sapling density was greatly reduced in MB immediately following treatment, but 2 years later abundant sprouting was observed. Regeneration of shade-tolerant species was encouraged in M and B, whereas MB favored shade-intolerant species. Reponses of dominant tree species varied by treatment based on species’ reproductive strategies. Red maple (Acer rubrum L.) increased in B primarily through seed germination, whereas MB promoted sprouting. Yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) showed rapid initial response to B and MB, but seedlings that germinated after fire in B did not persist. In contrast, seedlings germinating following treatment in MB thrived, quickly growing into the saplings. B and MB contained more than twice as many oak (Quercus spp.) seedlings recorded pretreatment, with the majority sprouting from remaining stems; however, a large acorn crop 1 year after burning contributed to seedling numbers observed the third year posttreatment. Shrub abundance was greatly reduced by M and MB, but sprouting in the understory layer was observed in all treatment units. Reducing fuel using techniques described here can affect woody species composition and potentially change development of mixed-oak forests in the Southern Appalachian Mountains.