Effects of Mechanical Site Preparation on the Abundance and Diversity of Ground-Layer Vegetation in Adirondack Northern Hardwood Stands
Forest management in northern hardwoods benefits from the use of site preparation treatments when the amount of American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) and fern species in the understory interferes with regeneration of more desirable species, e.g., sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall). We assessed the cover and diversity of herbaceous and woody species in the ground layer of three Adirondack northern hardwood stands before and 3 years after a mechanical site preparation that removed all trees less than 14 cm with a brush saw. The treatment significantly increased the cover of all species cumulatively, with herbaceous, shrub, and arborescent species increasing significantly more in treated plots than in untreated plots. Sugar maple cover increased more in treated plots than in untreated plots, although American beech did as well. Species richness increased significantly more in treated plots than in untreated plots, but differences in diversity and evenness were not significantly different because of treatment after 3 years. Multivariate analysis indicated only minor changes in the plant community composition. Results show that mechanical site preparation techniques are a viable option for promoting abundance and maintaining diversity of the ground-layer vegetation in northern hardwood forests.
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