Succession in a Mature Oak Forest in Southwest Virginia


Richard W. Rhoades

Additional Authors:


June – 1995


Oak, Virginia, Chestnut Oak, Scarlet Oak, Red Maple, Dogwood, Withe Pine

A forest dominated by chestnut oak and scarlet oak was first sampled in 1971. In 1994 it was resampled to measure compositional changes. Total density of trees decreased 6% and total basal area increased 11 %. These changes were small and not significant. Relative importance of the various species, however, changed markedly. Chestnut oak remained dominant, but scarlet oak was replaced by red maple as second dominant. In 1971 scarlet oak composed 17% of stand density and 48% of basal area. In 1994 it had declined to 3% of density and 10% of basal area. Flowering dogwood was moderately abundant in 1971, but in 1994 it had declined to one-fifth its former density. Sapling density increased due to increases in densities of red maple and white pine. White pine, present only as a few seedlings in 1971, composed 34% of sapling density in 1994. The forest, now an oak-maple community, is developing toward an oak-maple-pine community, one similar to a forest that occupied the site over 150 years ago.