Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research

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Mark Porter
Mark Porter

Evaluating stand density relationships in mixed species forests of the Mississippi river flood plain

Bottomland hardwood (BLH) forests are ecologically and economically important resources in floodplains of the southeastern US. Management of these forests can be challenging due to variation in species composition and site characteristics. One of the main tools available to the BLH forester is density management (i.e. "thinning"), with stocking guides being a common quantitative tool used to guide density management decisions. The current BLH stocking guide was developed based on expert opinion rather than empirical data, and is applied to a wide range of BLH forest types. This could be problematic as different species mixtures likely have different growing space requirements and thus carrying capacity, represented as maximum density, may vary between different forest types. Forestry major Mark Porter used data from the US Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis program and peer-reviewed literature to evaluate differences in relative stocking among several common forest types in the Lower Mississippi flood plain. He assessed the maximum relative density by simple linear regression of plot level data, in addition to evaluating the upper and lowers bounds of desirable stocking based on methods used in hardwood stocking guides developed in other regions. More specifically, for lower bounds he evaluated the minimum number of trees of a given size required to achieve crown closure, which is where trees start competing for growing space. Preliminary results on lower bound stocking support the hypothesis that different species will achieve crown closure at different stocking levels. These findings should provide guidance to managers about density management in forest types of different species composition to meet desired stand structural characteristics. Also, by improving knowledge of density relationships related to species composition, this study should help in the design of mixed-species afforestation efforts aimed at restoring floodplain forest cover in the southeastern US.


News / Recognition

Undergraduate Research Symposium

Katherine Abell, a wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major, and Zachary Senneff, a forestry major, were among the winners of the 2014 MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Abell placed first in the community engagement and social sciences categories and Senneff placed second in the biological sciences and engineering category.

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