Fruit production in mature and recently regenerated forests of the Appalachians
Fleshy fruit is a key food resource for both game and nongame wildlife, and it may be especially important for migratory birds during fall and for resident birds and mammals during winter. Land managers need to know how land uses affect the quantities and species of fruit produced in different forest types and how fruit production varies seasonally and as young stands mature. During June 1999-April 2004, we quantified fleshy fruit abundance monthly in 31 0.1-ha plots in 2 silvicultural treatments: 1) young 2-age stands with low basal area retention, created by shelterwood-with-reserves regeneration cuts (R; harvested 1998-1999); and 2) uncut mature closed-canopy stands (M) in 2 common southern Appalachian, USA, forest types (upland hardwood and cove hardwood [CH] forests). Over the 5-year study period, total dry pulp biomass production was low and relatively constant in both M forest types (x=0.5-2.0 kg/ha). In contrast, fruit production increased each year in R, and it was 5.0 to 19.6 times greater in R than in M stands beginning 3-5 years postharvest. Two disturbance-associated species, pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis), produced a large proportion of fruit in R but showed different patterns of establishment and decline. Huckleberry (Gaylussacia ursina) recovered rapidly after harvest and was a major producer in both silvicultural treatments and forest types each year. Several herbaceous species that are not associated with disturbance produced more fruit in CHR. Few species produced more fruit in M than in R. Fruit production by most tree species was similar between R and M, due to fruiting by stump sprouts in R within 1-3 years postharvest. Fruit availability was highest during summer and early fall. American holly (Ilex opaca), sumac (Rhus spp.), and greenbriar (Smilax spp.) retained fruit during winter months but were patchy in distribution. In the southern Appalachians, young recently regenerated stands provide abundant fruit compared to mature forest stands and represent an important source of food for wildlife for several years after harvest. Fruit availability differs temporally and spatially because of differences in species composition, fruiting phenology, and the dynamic process of colonization and recovery in recently harvested stands. Land managers could enhance fruit availability for many game and nongame species by creating or maintaining young stands within forests.