Red maple composition in an old growth forest 50 years following disturbanceThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Red maple (Acer rubrum) has become an increasingly important component in forests of the Eastern United States. In the absence of disturbance, this species proliferates in the understory and grows into the canopy. Growth and expansion of red maple was assessed in an old-growth forest in northern Georgia. Forty plots were established in the forest in 1960 following an ice storm, covering three forest communities (i.e., oak-pine (Quercus spp.-Pinus spp.), chestnut oak (Q. montana), and mixed forest). These plots were remeasured in 2015. Seedling frequency increased in the oak-pine and chestnut communities, red maple saplings comprised significant portions of saplings in the understory, and basal area increased throughout the forest. In an effort to assess seedling numbers in the forest, Geographically Weighted Regression was employed to allow for an assessment of variable changes throughout the forest. The best-fitting model had an adjusted R2 value of 0.77 and included basal area and slope, indicating the importance of these variables on red maple seedling germination. This supports the ‘super generalist’ label of red maple, and its continued growth into the midstory could allow red maple to become a canopy dominant species following subsequent natural disturbances. Forest managers should be prepared to take necessary steps to control red maple in similar forests in the Southeastern United States.