An Unusual Understory: The impacts of mowing on groundcover and tree seedlings within the Hadwen Arboretum

Authors: Galen Oettel*, Clark University
Topics: Environmental Science
Keywords: Hadwen Arboretum, mowing, forest management, urban forests, forest regeneration, species diversity
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Healthy urban forests, as found in Arboreta, offer myriad ecosystem benefits including shaded space for community recreation and cooler air during summer heatwaves. As climate change threatens the viability of these green spaces and the biodiversity they support, informed management is crucial. The Hadwen Arboretum at Clark University contains numerous tree species that are uncommon within the region and up to 150 years old. Despite decades of neglect, this unique property is now experiencing an increase in maintenance activities such as mowing to improve accessibility for visitors. However, the current implementation of this practice has not considered the importance of preserving native groundcover and tree seedlings that will one day occupy the overstory, some of which represent species that are uncommon to New England. This study will investigate how mowing impacts the abundance, diversity, and composition of herbaceous groundcover and seedlings in order to evaluate the implications of this practice for forest health and regeneration. Results show that the number of native species, proportion of vegetation that was native, and species diversity decreased in areas that were mowed. Mowed areas also contained a lower number of native seedlings and native species than did areas that were not mowed. This suggests that the practice can have a detrimental impact on forest understory health. Therefore, future management of the Hadwen Arboretum should balance visitor access with protecting native vegetation by restricting mowing in certain areas.

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