Red maple (Acer rubrum L.) is becoming increasingly dominant in forest stands throughout the eastern United States. To investigate the reasons for the increase, we examined the development of red maple and oak (Quercus spp.) seedlings and stump sprouts following the harvest of oak-dominated stands. Within 7 years after harvest, red maple seed-lings were present in far greater numbers and captured more growing space than all oaks combined. Growing space occu-pied by red maple stump sprouts exceeded oak sprouts by a ratio of 3.5:1. Through stump sprouts alone, red maple fully recaptured the amount of growing space it had previously occupied in the overstory 7 years after harvest. Results from similar but older stands show that red maple dominance is sustained into the third decade of stand development. Red maple surpassed all oaks combined in rapid site capture through both seed-origin and sprout-origin regeneration. Red maple's superior ability to regenerate by sprouts is particularly favored by timber harvesting following a history of management and disturbance regimes that permit the accumulation of suppressed small-diameter red maple stems. Among the events and processes that promote stand conversion, timber harvesting may be the major proximal cause of the widespread, increasing dominance of red maple.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Global and Planetary Change