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Ecological Section

Greer, Gary [1].

Comparison of Understory Diversity Beneath the Invasive Tree Ailanthus altissima versus Native Trees in a Forest in West Virginia.

Ailanthus altissima is an early-successional, Asiatic tree present in most of the lower forty-eight states and markedly abundant along the margins of lower-elevation mid-Atlantic forests. Ailanthus produces a chemically-characterized phytotoxin, ailanthone; however, only one published study has connected the release of water soluble substances from Ailanthus root systems with inhibition of growth and reproduction in neighboring plants in the wild. The purpose of the study reported here was to quantify the relationship between Ailanthus presence and understory diversity in a forest in West Virginia. Kanawha State Forest is a low elevation forest approximately 10km south of the urban center of Charleston, WV that is heavily infiltrated by Ailanthus. Ailanthus abundance is greatest along ridgelines with restricted access roads, particularly those near a powerline corridor that bisects Kanawha State Forest, indicating that this is the primary corridor of invasion. Thirty mature Ailanthus (basal diameter (bd) >10cm) were located throughout Kanawha State Forest, WV and their herbaceous and woody understories surveyed. For comparison, the understory of the nearest native tree (bd >10cm) beyond a 10m boundary from each Ailanthus was also surveyed. Species richness indices and species area curves revealed reduced diversity in Ailanthus understory. Likewise, understory diversity decreased with the abundance of Ailanthus seedlings and saplings, regardless of the identity of the canopy tree. These observations are consistent with those expected from allelopathic effects and provide a basis for predicting affects on succession following death of Ailanthus that currently compose the canopy.

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1 - Grand Valley State University, Biology Department, 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, Michigan, 49401, USA

Ailanthus altissima
Forest understory
West Virginia.

Presentation Type: Poster
Session: 33-18
Location: Salon C, D & E - Gov Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2005
Time: 12:30 PM
Abstract ID:199

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