Sugar maple (Acer saccharum) Seedling Bank Response to Storm Disturbance and Single Tree Selection Harvest in the Southern Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

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This case study seeks to fill a critical knowledge gap regarding how natural wind disturbance affects stand and seedling bank diversity in mixed northern hardwood forests managed by single tree selection harvest methods. Contemporary timber harvests on state managed lands in Michigan's Upper Peninsula employ single tree selection cutting methods to promote more complex age structure in second growth stands dominated by sugar maple (Acer saccharum). However, concern exists that single tree selection harvest may result in lowered compositional diversity of seedlings as the low light conditions of small dispersed gaps exclude less shade tolerant species from gap regeneration. In July 2016 severe thunderstorms with winds in excess of 145 km/h (90 mph) caused extensive tree fall and canopy gap creation in second growth mixed northern hardwood forests in the southern Keweenaw Peninsula. We measured the species composition of overstory tree mortality and understory seedling regeneration in 14 storm gaps created in stands with and without previous single tree selection harvest. Storm gaps ranged in size from 125 to 1100 m2. American basswood (Tilia americana) was disproportionately wind-thrown. Robust seedling regeneration was released in all storm gaps, with sugar maple comprising more than 75% of mean seedling abundance, regardless of previous single tree selection harvest. Sugar maple and ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) comprised 80% of sapling abundance. Results indicate single tree selection of mixed northern hardwood stands does not exacerbate, but rather emulates, dense sugar maple regeneration found on unmanaged second growth sites.

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American Midland Naturalist