Climate Change and Invasive Species: Challenges and Opportunities for Forest Establishment on Appalachian Surface Mines

Kenton Sena, Joshua Metzmeier, Brandon Smith, Beth Hansen, Chris Barton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Climate change and harsh environmental conditions present significant barriers to the reforestation of surface-mined sites in Appalachia. An experimental site was established on a reclaimed surface mine in eastern Kentucky to investigate the impacts of soil amendments (fertilizer additions and mycorrhizal inoculations) on the growth and survival of northern red oak and loblolly pine, and the effects of amendments and species planted on soil development. While early effects of soil fertility and mycorrhizae treatments were apparent, these did not affect the growth or survival of either species after 10 growing seasons. Overall, loblolly pine exhibited greater growth (7.6 m) and survival (58%) than northern red oak (1.8 m height growth and 39% survival). While the poor growth and survival of northern red oak were attributed to heavy vegetative competition from nonnative species, loblolly pine rapidly achieved canopy closure and shaded out competitive understory vegetation. This study documents that non-native loblolly pine may serve as an important pioneering tree species in reforestation of reclaimed mine sites by potentially outcompeting invasive exotic understory plant species. We speculate that, by suppressing invasive species, loblolly pine may have the potential to serve as a “nurse tree” for more economically and ecologically desirable hardwood species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-587
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sustainable Forestry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge Dr. Don Marx for helping with seedling inoculations and study design. Initial funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy and the USDA Forest Service. This work was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, McIntire-Stennis Research Program (Accession Number 1005547). Andrea Drayer provided invaluable field assistance. Thanks to the staff at Robinson Forest for helping set up and maintain the experiment and install the electric fence around the study area. Thanks also to the thieves who stole the fence!

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Taylor & Francis.


  • Forestry reclamation approach
  • Pinus taeda
  • Quercus rubra
  • compost
  • forest restoration
  • invasive species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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