Faculty Research at Morehead State University


Forest Community Structure and Tornado Damage in an Old-Growth System in Northern Kentucky

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This 20-year study reports on changes in the structure and composition of an old-growth forest after a windstorm in 1974. Tree density, basal area, and species composition were measured at Dinsmore's Woods, an old-growth maple-dominated forest in Boone County, Kentucky in 1973, in 1974 following a tornado and again in 1985 and 1994 to assess recovery patterns. Tree density and total basal area declined from 1974 to 1985 but increased in 1994. Species composition of the canopy was unchanged, with Acer saccharum as the dominant species and a subdominant stratum composed of Fraxinus americana, Ulmus rubra, Celtis occidentalis, and Quercus spp. However, Acer saccharum has increased in dominance relative to subdominants, except Quercus spp. The dominance of Acer saccharum was seen at all strata (canopy, saplings, and seedlings). The disturbance appears to have increased the dominance of Acer saccharum. This study indicates that this catastrophic windstorm decreased species diversity in this forest community.