, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 381-388

Assessment of frequent cutting as a plant-community management technique in power-line corridors

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Abstract

Repeated cutting of vegetation at or near ground level in power-line corridors is a common practice for inhibiting tree growth and regeneration. However, few data exist on long-term community responses. In this study, we sampled 20 northern Kentucky power-line corridors and compared their seedling and sapling communities to the edges and interiors of adjacent undisturbed forests. Mean seedling and sapling density in corridors was roughly twice that of adjacent undisturbed forest interiors, suggesting that repeated cutting is not a viable method of inhibiting tree regeneration. Corridor communities were dominated byRobinia pseudoacacia (black locust) andFraxinus americana (white ash), but ordinations indicated strong similaritties among communities in corridors and adjacent forests. Many of the tree species found in adjacent forests, with the exception of a few shade-tolerant species, had highest seedling and sapling densities in corridors. Stump or root sprouting by many species appears to regenerate forests quickly after cutting. However, disturbed soil and detritus accumulations caused by management crews and their equipment may also create a large variety of microsites for seedling establishment. Because repeated cutting selects for dominance by species with highest sprout growth rates, it should not be used as the sole management technique. It may instead be used to alter the vigor, stature, and stored reserves of trees so that herbicides or other methods of tree control can be used more efficiently.