Soil Physical Properties After Harvesting

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Chapter III Materials and Methods

Study Area Characteristics

As stated earlier, my major goal for this study was to characterize and compare soils, vegetation, and organic layers of two adjacent watersheds with different extent of anthropogenic disturbance to estimate the degree to which these disturbances may have influenced soil properties. My study examines the soil, vegetative, and litter layer properties of two watersheds that drain the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Creek Wilderness (JKSRW) area, Little Santeetlah Creek and Slickrock Creek. Forests in the entire JKSRW area have been influenced by:

  • One major disease disturbance, the Chestnut Blight in the 1920’s,
  • Several strong storms,
  • Several small fires,
    The Little Santeetlah Creek (LSC) watershed supports a virgin old-growth forest influenced by relatively minor anthropogenic disturbances such as extensive grazing. In contrast, the Slickrock Creek (SRK) watershed has been influenced by major logging operations in the 1920’s and associated anthropogenic disturbances. I chose these forested watersheds because of:
  • Different degrees of anthropogenic disturbances,
  • Proximity to each other, which minimizes the differences in the soil forming factors,
  • Access,
  • Inclusion in the wilderness system, which aids in identification of previous landuses. These watersheds were compared by:
  • Describing morphological and selected chemical and physical properties of a range of soils on similar landscapes,
  • Describing and classifying typical soils,
  • Landuse history,
  • Geological history, and
  • Plant species analysis.

Location

The Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Creek Wilderness area is entirely within the Natahala National Forest in the West-Central portion of Graham County, North Carolina and Northeast Monroe County, Tennessee, southwest of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest (JKMF) portion is at approximately 35o 22’ N latitude and 83o 57’ W longitude and Slickrock Creek is located at 35o 25’ N latitude and 840 00’ W longitude (Fig. 3.1). The total area within the wilderness is 6028 ha (14,895 acres), of which JKMF is approximately 1538 ha (3840 acres) and Slickrock Creek occupies the remaining 4490 ha (11,095 acres). Two major streams flow out of this area; Little Santeetlah (LSC), which drained the JKMF, and Slickrock (SRC) Creek.

Climate

The JKSRW area is located in a temperate climatic region with winter average high and low temperatures of 10° and -4° C, respectively, and summer average high and low temperatures of 27 and 15° The average annual rainfall ranges from 150 to 200 cm (60 to 80 in) (estimated by USDAFS 1972/1973). The nearest weather station is at Tapoco where annual precipitation is nearly 152 cm (60 in) (World Weather Disc). Lower temperature and higher precipitations are likely in the wilderness area, since it is at a higher altitude than Tapoco. The highest precipitation occurs in January (18.24 cm) while the lowest is in October (10.01 cm). Average annual run-off from the area is 106.68 cm (42 in) or 58% of the precipitation (USDAFS, 1972/1973). Predicted climatological values for an elevation of 760 m (2500 ft) are shown in Table 3.1 (Dickson, 1959).

Geology and Topography

The JKSRW area consists of a little more than 60 km2 situated in the Unicoi Range, which combined with the Great Smoky Mountains, make up the Unaka Mountains (Fenneman, 1938) of the southern Appalachians. The area is in the western part of the Blue Ridge physiographic province. Bedrock (see Fig. 3.2), in the LSC portion of the Wilderness area is arkosic metasandstone, muscovite phyllite and mica schist. The SRC portion is underlain by arkosic metasandstone, graphitic metagreywacke, and slate. These interlayered formations are part of the late Precambrian aged Great Smoky Group, which is a 12 km (40,000 ft) thick sequence of poorly sorted metasedimentary rocks with increasing metamorphic grade to the southeast. The metasandstones make up the backbone of the Unicoi Mountain Range (Lesure et al., 1977).
Topography of the region is extremely rugged, dominated by steep slopes, many exceeding 50%, sharp ridges, and deep valleys. Maximum relief of the area is approximately 1220 m (4000 ft), and occurs in the Slickrock Creek valley, between Stratton Bald (1628 m) and Calderwood Lake (330 m). The maximum relief in the LSC watershed is 975 m (3200 ft), between Stratton bald and the confluence of LSC and Big Santeetlah Creeks.

History

Graham County, North Carolina contains 76,121 ha, of which 45,754 ha are considered forested. It was officially named in 1872 and was one of the last regions in western North Carolina to be settled. The Great Smoky, Unicoi, Snowbird, Yellow Creek and Cheoah mountain ranges surround the County on all sides. This ruggedness made the county very difficult to settle. The only low elevation access is the Cheoah River, which flows through a rocky gorge down to the Little Tennessee River, which is where the first wagon road into this county was built (Graham Co. Centennial, 1972).
Very few Europeans saw this part of the country until the signing of the treaty with the Cherokee Indians in 1836 and the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians. This treaty ceded all the land that the Cherokee owned, to the United States and families began moving into the Slickrock area shortly thereafter. This is where histories begin to differ for the two watersheds used in this study.

I. Introduction
II. Literature Review
Introduction
Logging History in the Southern Appalachians
Soil Physical Properties After Harvesting
Litter Layer and Soil Organic Matter Properties After Harvesting
Litter Production
Litter Accumulation and Decomposition
Litter Nutrients
Nutrient Properties After Harvesting
Erosion
Soil Morphology, Physical Properties and Classification
Vegetation
III. Materials and Methods
Study Area Characteristics
Location
Climate
Geology and Topography
History
Initial Sample Site Selection
Initial Watershed Characterization
Typical Profile Sampling
IV. Results
Site Characterization and Typical Profile Development
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
Typical Pedon Characterization
Soil Morphology, and Classification
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
Vegetation Properties
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
Forest Floor Properties
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
V. Discussion
Soil Morphology
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
Vegetation
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
Forest Floor Properties
Little Santeetlah Creek Watershed
Slickrock Creek Watershed
Watershed by Aspect Comparisons
VI. Conclusions
Literature Cited
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Effects of Disturbance History on Forest Soil Characteristics in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

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