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Short-Term Effects of Silvicultural Treatments on Microsite Heterogeneity and Plant Diversity in Mature Tennessee Oak-Hickory Forests

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Growing emphasis on sustainability has increased the demand for information on effects of forest management on species diversity. We investigated the hypothesis that plant diversity is a function of microsite heterogeneity by documenting plant diversity and heterogeneity in canopy cover, light, and soil moisture produced by four silvicultural treatments during the first growing season following treatment: prescribed burning, wildlife retention cut with prescribed burning, wildlife retention cut, and shelterwood cutting. Treatments and controls were randomly assigned within four relatively undisturbed, 70–90-year-old oak-hickory stands. Heterogeneity in canopy cover and photosynthetically active radiation was greatest after shelterwood cutting, whereas the wildlife retention cut resulted in less removal of canopy trees and a smaller increase in heterogeneity of these factors. The addition of prescribed burning enhanced the effects of the wildlife retention cut. Prescribed burning alone had the least impact on heterogeneity of these factors. Soil moisture variability appeared to be independent of treatments. Shelterwood cutting increased first-year herbaceous plant diversity, and this increase was likely due, in part, to increased heterogeneity in canopy cover, light, and seedbed condition. These first-year results partially support the hypothesis that plant diversity is a function of microsite diversity in these forests. Long-term monitoring is underway.
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Keywords: Heterogeneity; Tennessee; diversity; photosynthetically active radiation; silviculture

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-09-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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