Indirect effects of beech bark disease on sugar maple seedling survival
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To investigate the mechanisms of indirect effects of the increased presence of American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.) saplings on sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) seedling survival, I conducted several experiments in the area of the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in central New Hampshire, U.S.A. To investigate the effects of competition from beech saplings on sugar maple seedlings, a removal experiment was conducted. Sugar maple seedling survival was monitored in five replicate plots of each of the two treatments for 6 years. Survivorship in plots in which beech saplings had been removed was significantly higher (33%) than in control plots (1%). A shading experiment demonstrated that a large proportion of the mortality of sugar maple seedlings results from the effects of shading. Cutting and shade cloth treatments were done in a two-factor factorial block design, and results showed a strong negative effect of shading in the plot. A third experiment investigated the role of soil moisture. Plots that had higher soil moisture and also had beech removed had the highest survival (76%), while control plots in a dry area had the lowest (22%). Overall, the experiments showed that beech bark disease and the associated increase in beech saplings had a negative indirect effect on sugar maple seedling survival. Sugar maple regeneration failure appeared to be, at least in part, due to the indirect effects of beech bark disease.