Microsite Influence of Coarse Woody Debris in Pinus palustris Woodlands

Authors: Alexandra Logan*, , Justin Hart, University of Alabama
Topics: Biogeography
Keywords: Coarse Woody Debris, Longleaf pine, Biological Legacies
Session Type: Paper
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Coarse woody debris (CWD) has beneficial effects on plant growth and establishment. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) stands support relatively low amounts of CWD, 2 – 30 m^3 per ha. In April 2011, an EF3 tornado passed through the Oakmulgee Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest in the Fall Line Hills of Alabama. This disturbance resulted in the large addition of CWD to a longleaf pine woodland, and a rare opportunity to analyze how CWD can influence a managed, pine woodland. Our goal was to examine the influence of CWD on the woody plant assemblage and growth rates in a longleaf pine woodland that experienced a catastrophic wind disturbance. We established three 1 m^2 quadrats against either side of a piece of CWD (> 3 m in length and ≥ 10 cm in diameter). Another quadrat was established at least 4 m away from the focal CWD piece. For each plot, we recorded the presence and height of every woody plant (< 5 cm dbh). Average plant height, oak and hickory density, and organic matter were found to be higher in quadrats near CWD than away (all p < 0.03). We also found a significant relationship between CWD decay class and average plant height, richness, density, and organic matter (all p < 0.03). Results from this study help to inform managers about the ecological functions of CWD in longleaf pine systems and other pine woodlands.

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