Reforestation of former bottom land hardwood forests that have been cleared for agriculture (i.e., afforestation) has historically emphasized planting heavy-seeded oaks (Quercus spp.) and pecans (Carya spp.). These species are slow to develop vertical forest structure. However, vertical forest structure is key to colonization of afforested sites by forest birds. Although early-successional tree species often enhance vertical structure, few of these species invade afforested sites that are distant from seed sources. Furthermore, many land mangers are reluctant to establish and maintain stands of fast-growing plantation trees. Therefore, on 40 afforested bottomland sites, we supplemented heavy-seeded seedlings with 8 patches of fast-growing trees: 4 patches of 12 eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) stem cuttings and 4 patches of 12 American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) seedlings. To enhance survival and growth, tree patches were subjected to 4 weed control treatments: (1) physical weed barriers, (2) chemical herbicide, (3) both physical and chemical weed control, or (4) no weed control. Overall, first-year survival of cottonwood and sycamore was 25 percent and 47 percent, respectively. Second-year survival of extant trees was 52 percent for cottonwood and 77 percent for sycamore. Physical weed barriers increased survival of cottonwoods to 30 percent versus 18 percent survival with no weed control. Similarly, sycamore survival was increased from 49 percent without weed control to 64 percent with physical weed barriers. Chemical weed control adversely impacted sycamore and reduced survival to 35 percent. Tree heights did not differ between species or among weed control treatments. Girdling of trees by deer often destroyed saplings. Thus, little increase in vertical structure was detected between growing seasons. Application of fertilizer and protection via tree shelters did not improve survival or vertical development of sycamore or cottonwood.
Additional Publication Details
Supplemental planting of early successional tree species during bottomland hardwood afforestation