Date of Award


Degree Name

Biological Sciences


College of Science

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Frank S. Gilliam

Second Advisor

Dan K. Evans

Third Advisor

Jeffrey D. May

Fourth Advisor

Mary Beth Adams


This study described patterns of herbaceous layer characteristics in watersheds of the Fernow Experimental Forest (FEF) in Parsons, WV. The purpose of this study was to examine four-year and seasonal patterns of change in herb layer species composition, cover, and richness within three stands of mixed hardwood forest. Sampling was conducted within seven circular plots (0.04 ha) in each of three watersheds of the FEF: WS3 (24-yr-old stand, previously clear-cut, receiving experimental nitrogen additions), WS7 (24-yr-old stand, previously clear-cut and treated with herbicide), and WS4 (>85-yr-old stand, untreated, control). All vascular plants~ lm in height were identified to species in each of 10 1-m2 circular subplots per sample plot and estimated for cover (%). Results confirmed those of earlier studies on these same sites, that species composition was similar across all watersheds. For example, throughout the 1994 growing season, 3 5 species out of a total of 70 were found on all three watersheds, and seven out of ten dominant species were found on all three watersheds. Comparisons of July 1994 sampling to July sampling of 1991 and 1992 indicated higher herb layer richness in 1994 than the other years for all watersheds. Results of annual comparisons of herb layer cover were inconsistent among watersheds; however, cover on WS7 was an average of 30% higher than WS3 and WS4 each year. Results were not consistent with expected outcomes related to successional change in forest ecosystems. For example, mature WS4 showed no less change in four-year cover, richness or dominant species over the four year period than younger watersheds. Pronounced seasonal patterns were revealed in cover, composition, and richness. Monthly patterns for herb layer cover were quite similar among watersheds, with a maximum occurring in June. Monthly patterns of species richness varied somewhat among watersheds. Canonical discriminant analysis indicated that less important species were responsible for most of the dynamic variation among watersheds, in both long-term and seasonal patterns. These data suggest that the herbaceous layers of these hardwood stands are seasonally quite dynamic and respond sensitively to annual changes in abiotic environmental conditions.


Forest ecology - West Virginia.

Fernow Experimental Forest (Tucker County, W. Va.)