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Reintroduction of American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) on Reclaimed Mine Sites in Ohio: Microsite Factors Controlling Establishment Success

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Microsite availability is crucial for recruitment success in natural populations as well as populations being established for restoration projects. Understanding the specific microsite requirements of a particular species targeted for restoration will increase the probability of success of any restoration project. Surface mining for coal represents one of the largest anthropogenic disturbances to the forests of the eastern United States. The original natural range of the American chestnut (Castanea dentata (Marsh.) Borkh.) overlaps the extent of the Appalachian Coal Basin. With American chestnut being readied for reintroduction trials, we sought here to determine some of the effects of microsite conditions on the establishment success of American chestnut on mine sites reclaimed using new, compaction-reducing techniques (i.e., “end-dump” reclamation) that create a series of loosely dumped mounds roughly 8-m diameter and 3-m tall to serve as a planting substrate. Specifically, we examined the effects of distance from existing forest edge, amount of existing cover of vegetation, small-scale topographic position, and a small set of soil variables on the growth and survival over three seasons of American chestnut seedlings planted on a reclaimed mine site in east-central Ohio. We found decreased tree survival adjacent to existing forest edges and greater annual growth rates at distances of 20 and 50 m from the existing forest edge. Microtopographic position had a significant effect on seedling growth and survival—seedlings planted higher on mounds had increased mortality and lower growth than those on the side slopes of those mounds. The amount of existing vegetative cover also affected survival and growth; trees growing in plots with higher vegetative cover values showed increased growth and survival. The compaction-reducing reclamation approach used here is relatively new and novel. Promising results that have been observed to date using American chestnut and this method seem to indicate that the combination may be very effective at restoring functional forests on lands degraded by surface mining.
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Keywords: hardwood restoration; reclamation; surface mining

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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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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