Masters Thesis Completed 2009


How Management Strategies Have Affected Atlantic White-Cedar Forest Recovery After Massive Wind Damage in the Great Dismal Swamp

Joelle Laing

J.M. Laing, T.H. Shear, and F.A. Blazich. 2011. How management strategies have affected Atlantic White-cedar forest recovery after massive wind damage in the Great Dismal Swamp. Forest Ecology and Management 262:1337–1344.

Abstract

In September 2003 Hurricane Isabel swept through eastern North Carolina and Virginia, destroying most of what formerly ranked among the most extensive remaining stands of Atlantic White-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides L.). As Atlantic White-cedar communities are dependent on irregular, large-scale disturbances, the hurricane event can be viewed as an opportunity for perpetuating cedar populations in the Great Dismal Swamp.

The success of cedar regeneration in the Dismal Swamp has been influenced by the management strategies employed by Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (active management) and by the adjacent Dismal Swamp State Park (passive management). We investigated the regeneration success of Atlantic White-cedar 5 years following Hurricane Isabel by sampling five stands at the Dismal Swamp State Park withstanding varying impact from the storm and previous windthrow events. We compared our findings to regeneration surveys completed at the adjacent Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Atlantic White-cedar seedling densities were up to 100 times higher in the actively managed Wildlife Refuge compared to the passively managed State Park. We also determined the seedbank of viable cedar seeds and we described the vegetation at the State Park. The stands at the State Park are now dominated by red maple (Acer rubrum) with a dense shrubby understory. Since viable cedar seeds were still present in the seedbank (>800,000 / ha), future seedling establishment is possible at the State Park. However, active management is essential for achieving sufficient seedling densities and survival for regenerating a mature cedar stand.