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2016FallSymposiumURCreativityEngagement has ended
Tuesday, December 6 • 10:15am - 12:00pm
Early Responses Of Rhododendron Maximum Removal Within Southern Appalachian Riparian Areas In The Wake Of Eastern Hemlock Loss: Microclimate And Species Diversity

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In the wake of eastern hemlock loss in the southern Appalachian Mountains due to the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Rhododendron maximum growth in areas collocated with eastern hemlocks has increased at a rate three times faster than rhododendron growing in areas without hemlock trees. Microclimate changes due to canopy removal drive changes in basic forest processes including seedling recruitment which is strongly linked to soil moisture availability and light. The effects of rhododendron removal on the local ecosystem were examined by measuring microclimate variables and herbaceous-layer recruitment in areas of active rhododendron growth (control areas) and areas where rhododendron removal has occurred at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory and White Oak Creek watershed in Macon County, North Carolina. Photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD; μmol m-2 s-1), and volumetric soil water content (%WC) in the upper 20 cm of soil were measured at 1 m2 quadrats located in removal and control plots throughout the basins. Pre-treatment measurements of microclimate variables occurred in June 2014 with cut treatments occurring in February 2015 and burn treatments occurring in February 2016. Post-treatment measurements occurred after the first growing season in June 2016. Overall, PPFD increased after the removal of rhododendron with each of the treatment types, and the greatest increase occurred in plots with both cut and burn treatments. There was a significant increase in species richness correlated to percentage of light reaching the forest floor with post treatment measurements. Soil water content measurements did not show a significant change between pre- and post-treatment measurements. Although there were measurable responses in microclimatic variables in treatment areas, there was not a significant enough departure from pre-treatment conditions to prove a tree recruitment response in the first growing season. Continued monitoring in successive growing seasons will help to discern how changes in microclimate affect herbaceous layer recruitment.

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Tuesday December 6, 2016 10:15am - 12:00pm
Wilma Sherrill Center - Concourse

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