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Can’t see the flowers for the trees: factors driving floral abundance within early-successional forests in the central Appalachian Mountains

Publication: Canadian Journal of Forest Research
3 August 2022

Abstract

Silviculture can be a powerful tool for restoring and enhancing habitat for forest-dependent wildlife. In eastern North America, regenerating timber harvests support abundant wildflowers that provide essential forage for native pollinators. Factors driving floral resource availability within regenerating forests remain almost entirely unstudied. Recent efforts to increase the area of regenerating forests (<10 years old) through overstory removal harvest in the central Appalachian Mountains provide an opportunity to investigate the development of forest wildflower communities following canopy removal. We conducted 1208 surveys of blooming plants across 143 harvests, recording 1 525245 flowers representing 220 taxa spanning 47 families. The number of flowers within recently harvested stands was negatively associated with fern and sapling cover but positively associated with grass and bramble (Rubus spp.) cover. Early in the growing season, more flowers bloomed in older regenerating stands (e.g., >5 years old), but this pattern reversed by the end of the growing season. Ultimately, our study demonstrates that the abundance of flowers available to pollinators within regenerating hardwood stands varies with factors associated with advancing succession. Recognizing the potential trade-off between woody regeneration (i.e., saplings) and pollinator forage availability may benefit forest managers who intend to provide floral resources to flower-dependent wildlife like pollinators via silviculture.

Résumé

La sylviculture peut être un outil précieux pour restaurer et améliorer l'habitat des espèces sauvages dépendant de la forêt. Dans l'est de l'Amérique du Nord, les coupes de bois en régénération abritent d'abondantes fleurs sauvages qui fournissent un fourrage essentiel aux pollinisateurs naturels. Les facteurs qui déterminent la disponibilité des ressources florales dans les forêts en régénération n'ont pratiquement pas été étudiés. Les efforts récents visant à augmenter la superficie des forêts en régénération (< 10 ans) par l'enlèvement de l'étage dominant dans les Appalaches centrales offrent l'occasion d'étudier le développement des communautés de fleurs sauvages forestières après l'élimination du couvert. Nous avons effectué 1 208 relevés de plantes en fleurs dans 143 récoltes, enregistrant 1 525 245 fleurs représentant 220 taxons répartis dans 47 familles. Le nombre de fleurs dans les peuplements récemment récoltés était négativement associé à la couverture de fougères et de jeunes arbres, mais positivement associé à la couverture d'herbes et de ronces (Rubus spp.). Au début de la saison de croissance, davantage de fleurs ont fleuri dans les peuplements en régénération plus âgés (par exemple, > 5 ans), mais cette tendance s'est inversée à la fin de la saison de croissance. En somme, notre étude démontre que l'abondance des fleurs disponibles pour les pollinisateurs dans les peuplements de feuillus en régénération varie en fonction des facteurs associés à l'avancement de la succession. La reconnaissance du compromis potentiel entre la régénération ligneuse (c'est-à-dire les jeunes arbres) et la disponibilité du fourrage pour les pollinisateurs peut profiter aux gestionnaires forestiers qui ont l'intention de fournir des ressources florales à la faune dépendant des fleurs, comme les pollinisateurs, par le biais de la sylviculture. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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Information & Authors

Information

Published In

cover image Canadian Journal of Forest Research
Canadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume 52Number 7July 2022
Pages: 1002 - 1013

History

Received: 20 January 2022
Accepted: 11 May 2022
Accepted manuscript online: 7 June 2022
Version of record online: 3 August 2022

Data Availability Statement

Following requirements from our funding source, our data are not made available to protect the privacy of the landowners on whose land our research was conducted. Public lands data set can be made available upon request (see corresponding author).

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Key Words

  1. flower communities
  2. blooming
  3. regenerating forests
  4. forest management
  5. timber harvest
  6. overstory removal
  7. Pennsylvania
  8. Appalachian
  9. pollinator

Mots-clés

  1. communautés florales
  2. floraison
  3. forêts en régénération
  4. gestion forestière
  5. récolte de bois
  6. suppression de l'étage dominant
  7. Pennsylvanie
  8. Appalaches
  9. pollinisateur

Authors

Affiliations

Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1011 South Drive, Indiana, PA 15705, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis, Investigation, Data curation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing, and Visualization.
Present address for Codey L. Mathis is Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, 16801, USA.
Darin J. McNeil Jr.
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal analysis, Investigation, Writing – review & editing, Visualization, and Supervision.
Monica R. Lee
Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1011 South Drive, Indiana, PA 15705, USA
Author Contributions: Investigation, Data curation, and Writing – review & editing.
Christina M. Grozinger
Department of Entomology, Center for Pollinator Research, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16801, USA
Author Contributions: Writing – review & editing and Supervision.
Clint R.V. Otto
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, US Geological Survey, 8711 37th Street SE, Jamestown, ND 58401, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Methodology, and Writing – review & editing.
Jeffery L. Larkin
Department of Biology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1011 South Drive, Indiana, PA 15705, USA
Author Contributions: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – review & editing, Supervision, Project administration, and Funding acquisition.

Author Contributions

Codey L. Mathis: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal Analysis, Investigation, Data Curation, Writing — Original Draft, Writing — Review and Editing, Visualization. Darin J. McNeil, Jr.: Conceptualization, Methodology, Formal Analysis, Investigation, Writing — Review and Editing, Visualization, Supervision. Monica R. Lee: Investigation, Data Curation, Writing — Review and Editing. Christina M. Grozinger: Writing — Review and Editing, Supervision. Clint R.V. Otto: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing — Review and Editing. Jeffrey L. Larkin: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing — Review and Editing, Supervision, Project Administration, Funding Acquisition.

Competing Interests

The authors declare there are no competing interests.

Funding Information

This research was funded through USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service's Conservation Effects Assessment Project (No. 68-7482-12-502) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania's School of Graduate Studies and Research. Our funding sponsors had no role in the study design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, report writing, nor the decision to submit the article for publication.

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