Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Ronald L. Jones

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Second Advisor

Neil Pederson

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Abstract

Prior to Euro-American colonization beginning in the late 1700s and subsequent periods of land conversion and intensive resource extraction, most forest on the Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky would have existed in a state meeting one or more of the definitions of old-growth forest in use today. However, many recovering, mature forests currently exist that might be redeveloping old-growth structure and function. To assess the development of old-growth forest characteristics in second-growth forests, 70 - 90 year old (young) and 140 - 160 year old (old) hardwood forests in the Daniel Boone National Forest were examined for a suite of structural characteristics to discern patterns of structural and successional development. Old forest was distinguishable from young forest, having reached thresholds similar to old-growth for presence of large canopy trees, coarse woody debris volume and size distribution, multi-age distribution, age of oldest trees, and complex canopy structure. Both ages of forest met thresholds for total basal area and met some proposed thresholds for stem density. Neither age of forest met suggested minimum densities for old-growth for snags > 30 cm DBH, though old forest had almost three times that of young forest, and nearly approached values reported for old-growth forest. Young and old forest also exhibited different patterns in oak and maple dynamics. Understory maples and overstory oaks recruited synchronously in young forest during the 1920s and 1930s, while recruitment of both species in old forest was temporally more broadly distributed.

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