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

Codey L. Mathis, Darin J. McNeil, Monica R. Lee, Christina M. Grozinger, Clint R.V. Otto, Jeffery L. Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

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 1 525 245 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1002-1013
Number of pages12
JournalCanadian Journal of Forest Research
Volume52
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology

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