Poor recruitment is changing the structure and species composition of an old-growth hemlock-hardwood forest

TitlePoor recruitment is changing the structure and species composition of an old-growth hemlock-hardwood forest
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSalk, Theodore T., Frelich Lee E., Sugita Shinya, Calcote Randy, Ferrari James B., and Montgomery Rebecca A.
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Volume261
Pagination1998 - 2006
Date Published6/2011
KeywordsRecruitment failure, Sugar maple, Upper Michigan, White-tailed deer, Wilderness, Yellow birch
Abstract

Anthropogenic factors such as elevated deer populations, invasive earthworms or climate change may alter old-growth forests of the Upper Midwest region of the United States. We examined demographic trends of woody species across all size classes over 35 years in a late-successional forest dominated by hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula using two sets of permanent plots. For the duration of the study period, species that were less-preferred white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) forage, especially sugar maple, comprised a much higher fraction of all seedlings and saplings compared to overstory trees. The density of small sugar maple declined across the study period, but no other species became more abundant, creating a more open forest understory. By the most recent census, preferred species for deer browse had been nearly eliminated from the understory, and declines in unpreferred species such as sugar maple were also apparent. We found small changes in temperature (