Effects of age and succession type on forest overstory and understory
In 1991 I assisted highschool students Joey Bosworth and Erika O’Sullivan with a science fair project comparing different types of forest succession. We measured over- and understory structure and species composition across an 80-year chronosequence (ie, place-for-time series). One series was in Áak’w Táak, inland from little lake (Mword Valley) on emerging surfaces once covered by the glacier. The other series followed forest recovery after clearcut logging. While both types of succession have been fairly well studied in Southeast Alaska, this—to our knowledge—was the first attempt to quantify similarities and differences between these post-disturbance trajectories.
There are few places in the world where a study like this could be done. Receding glaciers aren’t typically found in driveable/bushwackable proximity to an array of post-logging forests spanning nearly a century in age. For precise post-glacial surface ages, we relied on a well-established map of ice-front positions. Our post logging sites were scattered more widely across the borough. Two were on Marriott Trail, used so heavily by Forest Science Lab research, and Discovery’s educational excursions from Dzantik’i Héeni Middle School. The oldest was a hand-logged clearcut dating back to the gold-mining days, on Crow Hill above Sayéik (Gastineau) Elementary.
I’m a naturalist, and rarely engage in actual hypothesis-testing Science. Exceptions have included these wonderful collaborations with high school students for JSD’s (late-lamented) Science Fair. Unqualified to advise on experimental design, I always roped-in master-biometrician John Caouette, only 6 houses away on Behrends Avenue. John, and Science Fair, and discerning young researchers like Bosworth & O’Sullivan annually reminded me that even for a dyed-wool daisy-pickin turd-sniffer, it pays to slow down occasionally and count things.