Habitat Restoration Using Red Spruce (Picea rubens) on High Mountain Sites in Western North Carolina
Burgin E Dossett
Committee: JJ Apodaca, Dave Ellum, Mark Brenner
The spruce-fir ecosystem of the southern Appalachian Mountains, despite its rare and endangered state, has been and still is subject to a variety of human disturbances that have further limited its extent and impaired ecosystem processes. In order protect and enhance this ecosystem, ecological restoration work, informed by real-world data, is a necessity. The purpose of this study was to analyze the ecosystem type of two areas near Little Sam’s Knob in the Pisgah National Forest in Haywood County, North Carolina. These areas, having been repeatedly logged and burned, no longer support the native spruce-fir forest. The goal of this project was to find areas that that could be restored by the planting of Red Spruce (Picea rubens), a species that provides food and shelter for the endangered Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus). In order to find the areas most suited for restoration, a sampling plan for the area was drawn up and implemented. Regeneration counts, height measurements, basal area, site descriptions, snag counts, and visual observations were recorded for every 2.5 acres. Collected data was digitized in order to create maps of the area showing which spots were most in need of restoration, and where the restoration could be most effective in increasing NFS populations. Data points were categorized as either needing no treatment, a thinning regime, release work, or spruce restoration planting. We found that the area around Little Sam’s Knob is highly variable in land cover and ecotype, containing areas of open birch forests, spruce plantations, heath balds, briar fields, and relatively intact spruce forests. We found that the areas where restoration would do the most good are generally the midslope birch forests, where spruce seedlings could be planted under a birch canopy and allow for the gradual transition back to the original spruce forest.