Date of Graduation
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Wood Science and Technology
James S. Rentch.
This thesis presents work addressing the ecology of Trifolium stoloniferum, a federally endangered vascular plant species, in the Fernow Experimental Forest, West Virginia. In this thesis, I describe the historical ecology of this species and make a case that at one time it occurred in great abundance in association with trails created by large mammals and humans that intersected rich, open forests. Similar conditions exist at the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia, but instead of large mammals, the requisite soil disturbance, control of competing vegetation, and canopy perforation are created by timber-harvesting related disturbances, particularly gap creation by tree felling and skidding of trees from the forest.;I conducted two distinct studies to quantitatively and qualitatively describe the habitat conditions that promote T. stoloniferum success. The first study occurred at the scale of a forested stand. At the level of the stand, total number of logging-related disturbances since 1945 was the most important characteristic in determining the presence or absence of the species, with greater number of disturbances strongly related to the presence of the species. Time since last disturbance and aspect interacted to affect T. stoloniferum density within a stand, with west-facing stands that had been disturbed more recently than 14.5 years supporting the greatest densities of T. stoloniferum. This study revealed that stands managed in uneven-aged silvicultural systems with frequent management entrances that also received high levels of light were most capable of supporting vigorous occurrences of T. stoloniferum..;The second study consisted of a detailed habitat assessment of T. stoloniferum patches. I stratified patches at the Fernow Experimental Forest based upon patch abundance and inflorescence production and conducted detailed habitat assessment of a representative sample of patch sizes and relative inflorescence production. I assessed the vegetation, substrate, physiography, and localized disturbance history, and also took canopy photographs using a hemispherical lens. Patch abundance was the result of a suite of interactions between canopy structure, tree basal area, and disturbance history. Abundant sites also had high diversity of associated herbaceous species, suggesting that good sites for T. stoloniferum are also good for a suite of early and mid-successional forest herbs. Inflorescence production was the consequence of light levels, with high light levels associated with increased inflorescence production.;The management and conservation of Trifolium stoloniferum should focus on maintaining and encouraging those processes and activities that periodically disturb soil and create light gaps in mixed, mesophytic forests. In addition to the deliberate efforts of managers, incidental management opportunities, or situations in which the promotion of T. stoloniferum is an unintended outcome, should be identified and fostered.
Burkhart, John Q., "Ecology of Trifolium stoloniferum (Muhl. ex A. Eaton), a federally endangered vascular plant, at the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia" (2010). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 2169.