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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Restoring Fed Spruce Forests in the Central Appalachians

Photo of Fisheye imagery of the forest canopy at Kumbrabow State Forest in West Virginia illustrating the nearly continuous hardwood overstory above red spruce saplings. At times the red spruce saplings can be nearly as old as the overtopping hardwood trees. Thomas Schuler, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Fisheye imagery of the forest canopy at Kumbrabow State Forest in West Virginia illustrating the nearly continuous hardwood overstory above red spruce saplings. At times the red spruce saplings can be nearly as old as the overtopping hardwood trees. Thomas Schuler, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Red spruce forests once dominated the mountain tops of the Central Appalachians, but following exploitive logging and destructive wildfires a century ago these forests were nearly extirpated. Today there is much interest in restoring and connecting remnant patches of high elevation spruce but methods to do so are only beginning to be understood.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Schuler, Thomas M.  
Research Location : Kumbrabow State Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Monongahela National Forest
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1102

Summary

High-elevation forests in the Central Appalachians today are often dominated by low-quality hardwoods with nearly stagnant spruce in the understory. Without restoration, these understory red spruce persist for long periods of time but almost never replace the hardwood overstory. Managers wanting to restore these degraded forests have little science on which to base their actions. Forest Service scientist Tom Schuler and his colleagues set up a multi-site study to better understand the degree of release that would accelerate growth and enhance the competitiveness of understory red spruce. Research sites established in 2005 included Kumbrabow State Forest, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and the Monongahela National Forest. Release treatments were classified as: none, low, medium, and high. The scientists monitored light values and growth response of the target red spruce trees following release using stem injected herbicides on competitors. The highest level of treatment provided significantly greater six-year dbh and height growth than the other treatments. Based on these results, they propose that a tree-centered release approach using small canopy gaps that emulate the historical, gap-phase disturbance regime provides a good strategy for red spruce restoration. Restoring these forests will contribute to abundant clean water, critical wildlife habitat and mitigating climate change.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit
  • West Virginia University