Date of Award

8-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Natural Resources

Major Professor

Scott E. Schlarbaum

Committee Members

Jennifer A. Franklin, David S. Buckley, Stacy L. Clark, Arnold M. Saxton, Sandra L. Anagnostakis

Abstract

In anticipation of widespread planting of putatively blight-resistant hybrid chestnuts (Castanea spp.), it is critical to understand the silvics and competitive ability of the species. This dissertation examines preliminary growth and survival of several species and genetic crosses of chestnut grown as 1-0 high-quality nursery seedlings and planted in two study sites: Southeastern Kentucky (Daniel Boone National Forest; chapter 2), and Northeastern Connecticut (Yale-Myers Forest; chapter 4). The effects of three silvicultural treatments on the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF), and four silvicultural treatments on the Yale-Myers Forest (YM) were evaluated. Furthermore, the effect of initial seedling size on seedling performance was tested. In both studies, seedlings grew largest in height and root collar diameter in silvicultural treatments with the most available light. High mortality at the DBNF planting was caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, ink disease, and high mortality at the YM planting was caused by repeated deer, Odocoileus virginianus, browsing and competition from hay-scented fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula. Additionally, seedlings at the DBNF study were repeatedly defoliated by Craesus castaneae, chestnut sawfly, during the first growing season (chapter 3). Seedlings with larger root collar diameters at planting demonstrated greater survival and growth in the DBNF study while seedlings larger in height and RCD added less growth and were more likely to die in the YM study, likely due to the high deer population and dense understory competition. These results indicate that silvicultural treatments that create high-light environments are ideal for chestnut, however the species can establish successfully under a variety of light conditions, from low light [10% photosynthetically active radiation (PAR)] to high light (65% PAR). Ink disease will present a formidable obstacle to chestnut reintroduction efforts in the south, while northern efforts will be challenged by deer browsing due to overpopulated deer herds.

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