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By Jim King and Jeff Skousen


Abstract: Due to increasing environmental pressure, the state of West Virginia has recently changed its regulations that govern reclamation of mountaintop surface mines. The state regulatory authority now requires the development of commercial forestry as the only agronomic post-mining land use acceptable for mountaintop surface mines that seek a variance from returning the land surface to approximate original contour (AOC). The Samples mountaintop surface mine in southern West Virginia has obtained AOC variances and therefore has commercial forestry as a post-mining land use. Operators of the Samples Mine have initiated a reforestation program where about 20,000 trees per year (roughly 20 ha per year) have been planted at the site over the past six years. During 2002, West Virginia University researchers established belt transects (4.8 m wide by 100 to 200 m in length) in 55 plantations at the site to determine survival of planted trees and to evaluate tree height and stem diameter. Evaluations were performed on plantations established in the spring of 1999 and the spring and fall of 2001. In each transect, slope, aspect, and ground cover were measured, and survival and growth of trees were analyzed according to these site conditions. Average tree survival across these three planting seasons and among all tree species was 65%. Black alder (Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn.) was the largest of the planted trees, but sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L.), pine (Pinus spp.), white ash (Fraxinus americana L.), red maple (Acer rubrum L.), and black cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.) also showed good growth. Slope was used as a surrogate for soil compaction (steeper slopes tended to be reclaimed with smaller equipment compared to flatter slopes) and tree survival was 75 % on slopes>50%, 62 % on slopes 31-50%, and 67 % on slopes <30%. Tree survival was not different among five aspect classes (ranging from 59 % on W aspects to 68 % on E aspects). Tree survival was significantly higher (74%) on areas with <50 % ground cover and lower (62%) on areas with>70 % ground cover

Topics: Additional Key Words, aspect, compaction, ground cover, hardwoods
Year: 2011
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