Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2022

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Marjorie Holland

Second Advisor

Peter Zee

Third Advisor

Stephen Brewer

Relational Format



Overstory vegetation for twenty-two long-term monitoring plots (LTMPs) was sampled from 1996 to 2021 to study the changes in vegetation due to natural and human disturbance. From the fall of 2020 through the fall of 2021, the overstory of the 22 LTMPs was resampled and soil samples were collected from each plot. The circumference at breast height (CBH) and species diversity were recorded and compared to previous years’ data. The objectives of this study were to: (1) document changes in the overstory species of the LTMPs, (2) measure growth rates of surviving trees, (3) survey how elevation and slope impact the growth rates of various tree species and species diversity, (4) analyze the effect of soil content and moisture on tree growth, and (5) determine the role of UMFS forest trees in carbon sequestration and storage. The results of this investigation indicated that slope and soil moisture are important in tree development as Acer rubrum, Cornus florida, Liquidambar styraciflua, Pinus echinata, Pinus taeda, and Prunus serotina experienced high growth rates in flat, moist plots. Conversely, elevation had little effect on tree growth. Increased levels of nitrogen and organic matter as well as higher cation exchange capacity values were associated with increased tree growth. Results also revealed a positive correlation existed between organic matter, soil moisture, and cation exchange capacity. Competition appeared to be a significant factor in softwood trees such as Pinus echinata because they exhibited elevated growth rates when no or few hardwood species were present. Species diversity increased with high soil moisture. Findings suggest that soil moisture is largely dependent upon the amount of organic matter present. Acer rubrum, Cornus florida, Liquidambar styraciflua, Pinus echinata, Pinus taeda, and Prunus serotina were determined to be the most important tree species. Liquidambar styraciflua has become 5% more important since 2011-2012 and had an importance value of 19%. Pines remained the most important species as Pinus echinata and Pinus taeda collectively had an importance value of 20%. Based on the sizes of trees sampled, the UMFS is currently serving primarily as a carbon sink.

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