Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Member

Geoff G Wang, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Patrick Gerard

Committee Member

David Jenkins

Abstract

Forests in the Southeast U.S. Coastal Plain are subjected to periodic disturbances such as fire, hurricane, ice storm, and drought. For floodplain forests, ice storms are among the most frequent and injurious disturbances that occur. Despite this, these storms have not been studied as often as other disturbances, so their ecological role remains unclear. This study takes place in Francis Beidler Forest, an original growth floodplain forest preserve administered by the National Audubon Society near Charleston, S.C. The study examined the impacts of an ice storm that occurred February 11th-13th, 2014 on 3,700 trees that reside in three forest community types along an increasing moisture gradient: upland, bottomland hardwood, and cypress-tupelo swamp. The objectives of the study were to monitor the immediate and long-term growth and mortality of trees in Beidler Forest in response to key factors related to the ice damage. Results imply that ice storm damage has a lasting impact on mortality in southern forests, with an increase from 3.4% mortality immediately after the storm to 13.1% four years later. Damage severity had a positive correlation with mortality (p < 0.001) and damage categories of uproot and snapped bole were more likely to perish than those with crown damage. Evergreen broadleaf and marcescent trees in the upland community were significantly more likely to perish than deciduous trees (p < 0.001). Small diameter trees were also more likely to perish than larger ones. The cypress-tupelo swamp is the community that is most resistant to ice storms, with significantly lower mortality (p < 0.001) in trees > 5cm DBH than the two drier communities, bottomland hardwood and upland. Trees with DBH >11cm are the most dynamic in changes in growth after the storm, with >30% each experiencing recovery and decline, while most smaller trees remain steady in post-storm growth rates. These results suggest while ice storms may be infrequent, their impact can have a lasting legacy on the remaining trees for years after an ice storm event.

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