Current compositions and successional trajectories of forest stands in the southern Appalachians
Nedlo, Leigh Griggs
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I sampled woody species compositions on 19 forested sites of the Cherokee National Forest (CNF) in eastern Tennessee. A hierarchical cluster analysis derived 10 groups of plots, which we further divided into 52 site-groups. We used tree species’ dominances in the overstory to compare site groups’ compositions to named communities, based on walk-through and relevé plots, of each site. On nine sites we found matches for all named communities (47%). Thirty-two site-groups matched at least one expectation within their sites (61.5%), and 56% of named communities were matched by site-groups. Non-matches were due to compositional gradations, as well as fine-scale occurrences. Site-groups most often matched named communities when Quercus species (12 of 13, 92%) or Fagus grandifolia (three of four, 75%) were expected dominants. I found size distributions of species and coupled them with dominance data, which we used to predict successional changes in site-groups. We found Acer rubrum was increasing on 10 site-groups currently dominated by Quercus species, but other shade tolerants were declining in some site-groups. Invasive pests will cause more compositional shifts in these stands.