We studied understory composition in thinned and unthinned Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco)/western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylIa (Raf.) Sarg.) stands on 28 sites in western Oregon. These stands had regenerated naturally after timber harvest, 40-70 years before thinning. Commercial thinning had occurred 10-24 years previously, with 8-60% of the volume removed from below with the intent to homogenize spacing among trees. Undisturbed old-growth Douglas-fir stands were present for comparison on 18 of these sites. Total herbaceous cover was greater in thinned 1125% cover) stands than in unthinned (13% cover) or old-growth (15% cover) stands. Species richness was also greater in thinned (137) than in unthinned (114) and old-growth (91) stands (P=0.05). Part of the increased richness was caused by the presence of exotic species in thinned stands, but there were also more native grass and nitrogen-fixing species in thinned stands than in unthinned or oldgrowth stands. Groups of species differed among stand-types. For example, the frequency of tall cordate-leaved species was greater in old-growth stands (P=O.009), but their relative cover was different only between old-growth and unthinned stands (P=0.08). Both the cover and frequency of grasses and sedges in thinned stands were greater than in unthinned or old-growth stands (P<0.002). Ordination of shrub cover showed differences among old-growth and unthinned stands compared to thinned stands, mainly because of the amount of Gaultheria shallon Pursh and Polystichum munitum (Kaulf.) Presl in heavily thinned stands. Ordination of herbaceous community data showed that there were much stronger differences among sites than among stand-types. The lack of difference among stand-types demonstrates the resiliency of herbaceous communities to disturbance associated with past and current forest management.
Additional publication details
Understory vegetation in old and young Douglas-fir forests of western Oregon