Influence of coarse woody debris on seedlings and saplings in a Pinus palustris woodland

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University of Alabama Libraries

Coarse woody debris (CWD) has beneficial effects on plant growth and establishment. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) stands support relatively low amounts of CWD — 2 to 30 m3 ha-1. 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. The goal of this study was to examine the effect of CWD on woody plant richness, density, and growth rate (quantified by height) in a longleaf pine woodland that experienced a catastrophic wind disturbance. A total of three 1 m2 quadrats were established against either side of a piece of CWD (> 3 m in length and ≥ 10 cm in diameter). Another quadrat was established at least 3 m away from the focal CWD piece. For each plot, the presence and height of every woody plant (< 5 cm dbh) were recorded. Sapling density, oak and hickory density, and organic matter were all found to be significantly higher in quadrats adjacent to CWD than away (all p < 0.05). There was also a significant relationship between CWD decay class and average plant height, richness, density, and organic matter (all p < 0.05). 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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