Soft mast is an important resource for many wild populations in the Southern Appalachians, yet the way clear-cutting affects availability of soft mast though time is not fully understood. We tested a theoretical model of temporal availability of soft mast in clearcuts using empirical data on percent cover and berry production of Gaylussacia, Vaccinium, and Rubus spp. plants in 100 stands that were clearcut (0-122 years old) in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. We modeled the relationship between soft mast availability and stand age, evaluated the effects of topography and forest type on soft mast, developed statistical models for predicting the spatio-temporal distribution of soft mast, and tested the hypothesis that percent cover of berry plants and berry production provided similar information about soft mast availability. We found temporal dynamics explained berry production better than it predicted percent plant cover, whereas topographic variables influenced percent plant cover more than they influenced berry production. Berry production and percent plant cover were highest in ???2-9-year-old stands. Percent plant cover was lowest in 10-69-year-old stands and intermediate in 70+-year-old stands. Three of our spatio-temporal models performed well during model testing and they were not biased by the training data, indicating the inferences about spatio-temporal availability of soft mast extended beyond our sample data. The methods we used to estimate the distribution of soft mast may be useful for modeling distributions of other resources. ?? 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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Spatio-temporal availability of soft mast in clearcuts in the Southern Appalachians