Characteristics of old-growth mixed mesophytic forests

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Mixed mesophytic forests are globally significant centers of biodiversity that occupy mesic upland sites (to 1400 m) throughout the southern Appalachians. They provide a variety of foods and other habitat requirements for a number of resident and migratory animals. Extensive logging throughout the Appalachians from the 1870s to the 1940s reduced the extent of old-growth forests in the southern Appalachians. Today such forests exist in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a few wilderness areas, and as other scattered remnants. Characteristics of these forests include high plant species richness; shared dominance among several mesophytic species; uneven-aged condition and several canopy trees over 200 years old; standing snags and downed logs at all stages of decay; canopy densities averaging 250 trees/ha and basal areas averaging 25 m2/ha; single and multiple tree-fall gaps; undisturbed soils with macropores; and little evidence of human disturbance. Information on the plants and animals that prefer this forest type is still incomplete. Recovering forests in the Appalachians now provide the opportunity to protect and manage ecologically significant areas for development of old-growth mixed mesophytic forests. On public lands, important considerations for managers of old growth will revolve around size and arrangement of old growth and management strategies for protection of and long-rotation forests.


"Contribution number 13 of Lilley Cornett Woods, Appalachian Ecological Research Station of Eastern Kentucky University." (p. 127)

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