Nine-Year Response of Hardwood Understory to Organic Matter Removal and Soil Compaction
The effects of three levels of organic matter removal (OMR) and three levels of soil compaction (SC) on the development of understory vegetation in a central hardwood forest were evaluated 9 years after treatments were applied as part of a national program of long-term soil productivity research. The three levels of biomass removal (OMR) were removal of merchantable boles only (OM0), removal of the whole tree (OM1), and removal of the whole tree plus forest floor (OM2). The three levels of soil compaction (SC) were none (C0), medium (C2), and severe (C2). Weeds were controlled in all plots for the first 2 years. Understory vegetation within 81 7.9-m2 subplots was inventoried by species and quantified into plant groups of woody (trees, shrubs, and woody vines) and herbaceous (annuals, perennials, and grasses) at year 5 (after 3 years of no weed control) and year 9 (after 7 years of no weed control). Vegetation was analyzed for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), and magnesium (Mg). OMR did not significantly affect the overall number of plants over the 5-year measurement period, but there were differences for both woody vines and grasses, which were highest in the OM0 treatment in 1999, but by 2003, they were not different. There were no differences in plant numbers among plant groups for SC in the 1999 measurement period between treatments for any plant group, but there were significantly fewer trees and woody vines in the C2 treatments than in the C0 or C1 treatments in 2003; the opposite was true for herbaceous annuals, which were highest in C1 and C2 treatments. Over the 5-year measurement period, only the height of woody vines was significantly affected by OMR, but SC significantly affected the height of all plant groups over the 5-year measurement period. Annually, however, trees were tallest in the OM0 and C0 treatment than in OM2 and C2 treatments. The annual height of other plants, excluding trees, was affected only 1 year of 5 by OMR. Fewer trees and shorter trees in the severe compaction treatment suggest that, in the short term, soil productivity has been affected on the site.
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