The influence of logging and topography on the distribution of spruce-fir forests near their Southern limits in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA
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We studied the effects of logging history, topography, and potential insolation on the lower-elevation limit of existing spruce-fir forest in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM). Dummy-variable regression, analysis of variance, and classification trees were applied to environmental data within a geographic information system framework. The effect of logging history on the lower limit of spruce-fir depended on aspect. On north-facing slopes (270°– 90°), the presence of spruce-fir was independent of both logging history and potential insolation. On south-facing sites (90°–270°), the elevation of spruce-fir was significantly higher (by 122 m) in areas that had been logged historically. Classification-tree models suggested an even greater logging effect, indicating that both the lower limit and the upper dominance zone of spruce-fir forest are, on average, nearly 200 m higher in historically logged landscapes. Presence of spruce-fir on south aspects was also significantly related to potential insolation, but the strength of this effect was not dependent on logging history. Classification-tree models, developed separately using data from logged sites versus unlogged sites, were used to estimate the current area of spruce-fir forest in the park expected under the hypothetical scenario that no spruce-fir had been logged (38,675 ha) versus the alternate scenario that it had hall been logged (11,727 ha). At present the area of spruce-fir forest in the park is 21,242 ha. We found greater prevalence of spruce-fir on the Tennessee side of the divide on south aspects and historically logged sites, possibly due to greater occurrence of westerly winds and associated cloud cover.
KeywordsAbies fraseri Disturbance Ecotone Picea rubens Southern appalachians
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