Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Forestry

Major Professor

Jennifer A. Franklin

Committee Members

David S. Buckley, Raymond C. Albright

Abstract

Surface mining is a major industry in eastern Tennessee that removes much of the native forest. To restore the forest, reclamation practices are used. These include planting a ground cover species with native hardwoods. Competition between the ground cover and tree species for soil resources could hinder growth and decrease survival of the trees. Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) was used for this study to examine the possible effects of this competition and the relationships between root growth and soil moisture through a field and a greenhouse experiment.

A field experiment was designed using four different ground cover treatments (Soldiago nemoralis, Medicago sativa, Panicum virgatum, and bare ground) with four different hardwood species. Northern red oak was measured for this study. The results showed that the site physical factors (slope position, soil temperature, and soil moisture) were not related to each other. Soil moisture varied by depth with the lower depths (46 cm to 76 cm) was much higher than the upper depths (0 to 46 cm). Root growth did not differ by treatment or percent cover. Both soil temperature and ground cover percentage increased over the growing season. Root growth showed a relationship with depth with the upper depths of soil having more roots than the lower depths. Annual rye was used as well as switchgrass, alfalfa, and bare ground treatments for a green house study. Two-year-old Northern red oak seedlings were first planted in pots and then ground covers were established and grown for 9 weeks. Then water stress was imposed over two dry down periods during which transpiration and soil moisture were measured. Root growth was measured after harvest. The results showed a relationship between transpiration and soil moisture. Soil moisture was highest in the bare ground treatment and lowest in the annual rye treatment. Fine root development of trees was greatest in the bare and alfalfa and lowest in the annual rye. Switchgrass had the second highest soil moisture and third highest fine root development. Root growth was related to both soil moisture and transpiration.

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