Effects of Three Years of Regrowth Inhibition on the Resilience of a Clear-cut Northern Hardwood Forest
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Clearcutting is a common silvicultural practice in the deciduous forests of northern New England. Subsequent regrowth is usually rapid, largely due to regenerative capacities of successional plants, particularly pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica L.). The forest cover of an experimental watershed (W2) in Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, NH was clearcut and then treated with herbicides for 3 years to prevent regrowth. This experimental treatment delayed plant growth and caused extensive nutrient losses from the watershed-ecosystem, thereby diminishing factors normally promoting revegetation. This article addresses the question of whether, or to what degree, resilience, defined here as the trajectory of recovery back to a prior state following a perturbation, was reduced by this treatment. Performance metrics for resilience were aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and biomass accumulation. Data collected over seven intervals for the first 31 years of regrowth show that a primary component of resilience—pin cherry density—was reduced, and that ANPP and biomass accumulation were initially below normal compared with other clear-cut sites. After approximately a decade of regrowth, however, trajectories for both ANPP and biomass fell within the lower margins of variability measured in other regional examples.
KeywordsNew Hampshire northern hardwood forest plant biomass primary productivity revegetation resilience
This research was made possible by support and assistance of the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, and was partially supported by the National Science Foundation Long-term Ecological Research Program. WAR particularly thanks the members of the seven steadfast field crews who loyally assisted him in the field, and especially Ms. Cindy Wood, the leader of several of these crews. WAR also thanks Drs. Ramesh Sivanpillai and Peter W. Reiners for assistance in preparing the manuscript. This article was improved by suggestions provided by two anonymous reviewers.
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