A forest transect of pine mountain, Kentucky: changes since E. Lucy Braun and chestnut blight
In 1997, forest composition and structure were determined for Hi Lewis Pine Barrens State Nature Preserve, a 68-ha tract on the south slope of Pine Mountain, Harlan County, Kentucky. Data collected from 28 0.04-ha plots were used to delineate forest types. Percent canopy compositions were compared with those reported by Dr. E. Lucy Braun prior to the peak of chestnut blight. Four forest types were identified: Liriodendron-Acer, Quercus-Tsuga, Mixed Quercus, and Pinus-Quercus. Post-blight, little change has occurred in the Pinus-Quercus forest type on ridges and SSE aspects. On more mesic aspects, canopy gaps created by chestnut death were filled primarily by existing canopy species (Quercus spp.) and to a lesser degree by non-canopy species. Near the crest of the mountain, Acer rubrum has replaced Castanea dentata and assumed secondary importance to Liriodendron tulipifera. Castanea dentata remains an important component in the subcanopy of the four forest types and is present in the groundcover in three types. Except for the absence of C. dentata, species composition of Braun’s forest types has remained relatively unchanged during the past 70 years; however, loss of C. dentata initiated changes in the relative importance of these species resulting in varying degrees of transition to post-blight forest types. Contribution of existing canopy species to importance values for the subcanopy and woody groundcover strata is less than that of fire-sensitive species, suggesting future changes in these post-blight forest communities.