Hello I’m Ben Poling, a student at Virginia Tech studying Forest Resource Management and policy. I am currently living in Christiansburg Virginia but am originally from a small town in western New York. I served in the United States Navy for two enlistments and in 2012 decided to go to college and study natural resources. Here at Hubbard Brook I will be researching to find if soil drainage characteristics play a pivotal role in the mode of tree damage observed after a windstorm. I am working with Dr. Natalie Cleavitt of Cornell University who will be mentoring me on my quest to find answers!
Windstorm damage is a frequent occurrence in mountain’s and heavily forested areas. Modes of damage can vary from snap-off to complete uproot and often is dependent on landscape conditions. In this study we are proposing to look at the correlation between soil drainage characteristics and mode of damage during a windstorm. In short we want to find out if the soil type and drainage characteristics predispose trees to a certain mode of damage. The main questions we mean to answer in this study are: Do soil drainage characteristics play a bigger role in mode of tree damage than soil depth, and does this relationship change with storm intensity? Focal tree species in this study will be American Beech (Fagus grandifolia), Red Spruce (Picea rubens), Red Maple (Acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis). We are primarily looking at tree snap-off’s and uprooting as this appears to be the most frequent mode of damage observed in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest. This would be the first time soil drainage characteristics and tree damage have been looked at solely in this manor, but not the first time windstorm damage has been investigated. In earlier studies it has been noted that tree diameter at breast height (DBH) and species (SPP) played a large role in mode of damage (Chris J. Peterson and S.T.A. Pickett 1991). In 2013 C.J. Peterson et al. compared windthrow damage by size of disturbance area while maintaining soil characteristics, tree species, climate and topography as constants. In another study data was collected on 12 coniferous tree species looking at rooting depth and anchorage in different soils with a focus on Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) to be utilized for wind risk models (Bruce C. Nicoll et al. 2006). We find that this study is in closest resemblance to our own but does not address certain details we wish to address that will be more applicable to glacial till in the mountains. This is an important matter because it can give insight as to what we can expect in future windstorms in terms of damage and areas that are at the highest risk of damage. As more and more people move into the wildland urban interface (WUI) this matter becomes even more pressing in terms of predicting for the type and level of tree damage and to what extent the damage will be as this information can save homes and more importantly the lives of people living in the WUI. From a scientific standpoint this study can be continued and expanded upon to include many other at risk regions and can be utilized for modeling programs to help predict windstorm damages.
Thanks for reading about my project and what I will be working on, I hope that you found it interesting and informational. Please feel free to ask any questions about the project, I will be happy to answer them, and keep following the blog for updates as I will be posting periodically throughout the rest of the summer. Till next time…
Benjamin T. Poling