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An Assessment of Canopy Stratification and Tree Species Diversity Following Clearcutting in Central Appalachian Hardwoods

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On high quality growing sites in West Virginia, shade intolerant tree species have increased in importance in third-generation forests following clearcutting. We investigated the effect of tree species canopy position on the Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index (H′), Pielou's evenness index (E), and species richness (S) using a chronosequence of 13 clearcuts. Two to 26 yr after clearcutting, tree species diversity significantly decreased from 2.07 to 1.83, and evenness decreased from 0.80 to 0.71 while species richness was maintained. As the number of years since harvesting increased, the importance value of oaks (Quercus L.), hickories (Carya Nutt.), American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), and black birch (Betula lenta L.) decreased while the importance of yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera L.) increased. In these mixed-species stands with stratified canopies, species importance in overstory versus understory canopy layers was the best indicator of competitive success during stem exclusion. Second-generation forests that had almost equal representation of overstory sugar maple and yellow-poplar prior to harvesting had 43% yellow-poplar and 13% sugar maple overstory importance 22–26 yr after harvest. Forty-five percent of the dominant crown class stems and 54% of the codominant class were yellow-poplar. While sugar maple was also an important (13%) overstory species overall, it had no dominant and few codominant stems and over 30% importance as overtopped trees and in the understory. As these stands progress through the stem exclusion stage, richness and measures of diversity may continue declining as yellow-poplar basal area increases. FOR. SCI. 50(1):54–64.

Keywords: Species diversity; canopy structure; clearcutting; environmental management; forest; forest management; forest resources; forestry; forestry research; forestry science; natural resource management; natural resources; yellow-poplar

Document Type: Regular Article

Affiliations: 1: 188 Marathon Pl. Romney WV 26757 304-822-7338 2: Division of Forestry West Virginia University P.O. Box 6125 Morgantown WV 26506-6125 Phone: 304-293-2941, ext. 2423;, Fax: 304-293-2441, Email: 3: Timber and Watershed Laboratory USDA Forest Service P.O. Box 404 Parsons WV 26287 Phone: 304-478-2000;, Fax: 304-478-8692

Publication date: 2004-02-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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