Study finds logging effects vary based on a forest's history, climate

December 2, 2009

A Smoky Mountain forest's woodland herb population has shown that climate may play a role in how forest understories recover from logging, according to Purdue University research.

Despite heavy in portions of the nearly 80 years ago, the distribution of trillium plants on the secondary forest floor was similar to that of undisturbed areas. Michael Jenkins, a Purdue assistant professor of forestry and natural resources, said that contrasts with a study by other researchers of an Oregon forest in which trillium didn't recover after logging.

Jenkins said the findings, reported in a November issue of the journal Forest Ecology and Management, suggest that climate and history play a role in a forest's ability to rebound from logging. The study was done in collaboration with Christopher R. Webster, an associate professor of forest resources at Michigan Technological University.

"There's still a lot of controversy about the effects of logging," Jenkins said. "There is an effect on a forest, but there is also recovery as we've seen."

The Smoky Mountain site receives 51.3 centimeters of rain in the summer months, compared to an Oregon site - which received 7.3 centimeters of rain - in which trillium did not rebound well after logging. Also, the Oregon site was burned and replanted after it was logged. The Smoky Mountain site was not treated post-logging.

Trillium is a woodland herb that spreads slowly, often with moving its seeds only a meter at a time. The slow spread makes trillium a model plant to show the effect that a major disturbance such as logging has on a forest's understory. Trillium plants also can live for more than 20 years, and stem scars act much in the way rings do in tree trunks to allow for determining the plant's age.

"The old-growth trillium populations were structurally complex, but the secondary-growth populations were nearly as complex," Jenkins said. "It suggests that the population in secondary forests was not eliminated by historic logging. Populations of secondary-forest trillium are quite healthy and still expanding. They've had sufficient time to develop more complex clusters of individual plants."

"We would expect that you'd see similar trends in other understory species, but they're difficult to study because you don't have the ability to age the plants the same way you can trillium," Jenkins said.

Jenkins' future research will focus on whether logged and unlogged areas differ in how often populations of trillium occur across large forest areas to confirm this study's findings on a larger scale.

Source: Purdue University (news : web)

Explore further: Logging may increase fire risk

Related Stories

Study: Some forest roads bad for wildlife

October 31, 2006

A U.S. study suggests forest roads used for such activities as logging or mineral removal can negatively affect wildlife for long periods of time.

Measuring nectar from eucalypts

July 31, 2007

The effect of logging on canopy nectar production in tall forest trees has for the first time been investigated by NSW DPI researchers, with funding from the Honeybee Program of the Rural Industries Research and Development ...

Beetle dung helps forests recover from fire

November 29, 2007

Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings, University of Alberta forestry graduate Tyler Cobb has discovered why the bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.

Probing Question: Can logging be done sustainably?

April 3, 2008

In an era of ever-increasing environmental awareness, few industries receive more scrutiny than logging. For decades, environmental groups have claimed that commercial logging practices result in devastating consequences, ...

Recommended for you

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

October 1, 2015

Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide ...

History shows more big wildfires likely as climate warms

October 5, 2015

The history of wildfires over the past 2,000 years in a northern Colorado mountain range indicates that large fires will continue to increase as a result of a warming climate, according to new study led by a University of ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.