Morphological acclimation and growth of ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) advance regeneration following overstory harvesting in a Mississippi River floodplain forest
Stand-level growth responses and plant-level patterns of biomass accumulation and distribution were examined to learn how stand structure influences morphological acclimation and growth of green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) advance regeneration following overstory harvesting. Nine, 20-ha plots that received clearcut harvesting (100% basal area removal), partial harvesting (50% basal area removal), or no harvesting (control) were sampled to measure height, root-collar diameter, leaf, stem and root biomass, and leaf mass ratio (LMR), stem mass ratio (SMR) and root mass ratio (RMR) of ash regeneration. Six years after treatment, plot-level analyses indicated that ash growth was greatest in plots receiving clearcut harvesting, and least in control plots. Examination of LMR, SMR and RMR revealed that this growth response was not associated with acclimation that altered plant morphology. Total biomass ranged 275-fold among sampled plants, and much of this variation was accounted for by measurements of stand leaf area index (LAI). Along the gradient of stand LAI, values greater than 2 inhibited biomass accumulation. Stand LAI values less than 1.5 promoted ash biomass accumulation which reached a maximum where LAI values approached 0.7 and tapered above or below this value. Our findings indicate that green ash regeneration can be managed beneath light canopy cover, and the ability of seedlings to establish and persist beneath closed canopies and vigorously respond to release without having to endure prolonged morphological acclimation provides flexibility in developing regeneration protocols.