We hypothesized that tree form, recorded in historical public land surveys, would provide a valuable proxy record of regeneration patterns during early-European settlement of North America's eastern deciduous forest. To test this hypothesis, we tallied stem form from witness trees used in land survey records in the southern Appalachian Mountains from 13 counties spanning four physiographic provinces: Piedmont, Blue Ridge, Ridge and Valley, and Cumberland Plateau. A total of 3% of witness trees used in the land surveys were of sprout origin. American basswood (Tilia americana L.) exhibited the highest proportion of sprout-origin trees at 12%. Other overstory species with a high proportion of sprout-origin trees were hickory (Carya sp.), red maple (Acer rubrum L.), and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis L.), all with 6% of stems being from sprout origin. Blue Ridge had signiﬁcantly more sprout-origin trees compared with the other three physiographic provinces. Forests in the southern Appalachian Mountains during the pre-European settlement period had a suite of disturbances that controlled their growth and regeneration; however, most of these disturbances did not result in large-scale tree mortality, and therefore, sprouts were not an important source of regeneration.
Copenheaver, Carolyn A.; Keyser, Tara L. 2016. Frequency of sprout-origin trees in pre-European settlement forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 46: 1019-1025, 7 p. 10.1139/cjfr-2016-0078