- McNulty, Stacy A.
SUNY-ESF, Adirondack Ecological Center
Beech bark disease (BBD) has dramatically altered hardwood forest structure and composition across northeastern North America. Extensive overstory mortality has resulted in prolific root suckering in some stands leading to the development of understory thickets of clonal small-stemmed beech. Beech thickets may impact local forest biodiversity, but this has not been adequately evaluated. We hypothesized significant differences in diversity of groundcover flora, small mammals, amphibians, and craneflies between plots with and without beech thickets. Paired plots were established in uneven- aged northern hardwood forest stands with no recent management history at two sites in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. Groundcover plants, terrestrial craneflies, amphibians and small mammals were sampled on twenty paired plots. Discriminant analysis showed a significant difference between thicket and non-thicket (control) areas; important variables in plot type separation were beech sapling abundance, leaf litter depth, and coarse woody debris volume. Groundcover plant cover, richness, and diversity was significantly lower in thicket plots compared to non-thicket plots, while thicket density explained 17%-38% in groundcover plant species diversity. No significant differences were found between the diversity of cranefly, amphibian and small mammal communities of each plot type. This study shows beech thickets to be important in determining local biodiversity.