Twenty Years of Ground Flora Community Response to Forest Management in the Missouri Ozarks

by

Elizabeth K. Olson, Rose-Marie Muzika, and Susan Farrington

Resource Scientist (EKO), Missouri Department of Conservation, Ozark Regional Office, 551 Joe Jones Blvd, West Plains, MO 65775; Professor of Forestry (RMM), University of Missouri, 203 Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, Columbia, MO 65211; Natural History Biologist (SF), Missouri Department of Conservation, Ozark Regional Office, 551 Joe Jones Blvd, West Plains, MO 65775. Elizabeth Olson is the corresponding author. To contact, call 417-255-9561 (x296) or email elizabeth.olson@mdc.mo.gov.

Abstract – Timber harvesting is often controversial and perceived to be detrimental to non-commodity forest species, although the long term impacts to plant communities are not fully understood in the Missouri Ozarks. The Missouri Ozark Forest Ecosystem Project (MOFEP) is a long term, landscape scale study designed to assess the effects of forest management on multiple aspects of Ozark upland forests in southeast Missouri. Harvest treatments include single-tree and group selection, thinning, and clearcut, reflecting a wide gradient of disturbance and representing the range of silvicultural practices applied on private and public lands in Missouri. This provides an ideal opportunity to study the ground flora diversity and composition as it’s affected by harvest-created changes in stand density, basal area, and canopy openness. Between 1994 and 2014, nine years of detailed ground flora data was collected from 648 0.5-acre plots spanning over 9,000 acres of oak-hickory-pine woodlands and forests. We examined ground flora species diversity, composition, and floristic quality over the gradient of stand conditions created by two harvest entries in 1996 and 2011, and compare these to un-harvested control sites. As forest land managers strive to meet multiple objectives including those of tree regeneration and conserving biological diversity, these findings will serve to increase our understanding of plant community dynamics in the context of timber harvesting.