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Scenario Modeling Informs Spruce Restoration in West Virginia

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Topics covered include goals for restoration of red spruce forests, desire to protect and improve habitat, comparing and contrasting active and passive restoration, constraints, and sustainability of restoration actions.

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Using Maximum Entropy Modeling to Identify and Prioritize Red Spruce Forest Habitat in West Virginia

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Red spruce forests in West Virginia are found in island-like distributions at high elevations and provide essential habitat for the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander and the recently delisted Virginia northern flying squirrel. Therefore, it is important to identify restoration priorities of red spruce forests. Maximum entropy modeling was used to identify areas of suitable red spruce habitat, with a total of 32 variables analyzed. Maximum temperature of the warmest month and minimum temperature of the coldest month were identified as variables explaining the most information about red spruce forest habitat. In addition, habitat maps identifying areas of high, medium, and low suitability were created and quantified at the county level. These results will benefit current and future conservation and restoration management activities as they identify core areas that possess the necessary environmental conditions for supporting future complex red spruce communities. Restoration efforts focused in areas possessing high suitability ensure peak potential of success and will ultimately give red spruce forests in West Virginia the greatest resilience to future climatic conditions by establishing connectivity between red spruce forests and increasing genetic diversity.

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Spruce Mapping Project Complete!

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After almost 3 years and a lot of work, CASRI partners have finally completed a current map of red spruce cover across WV! The red spruce cover map is intended to assist with restoration of red spruce communities and the high elevation species that depend upon them.

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Download the data for free from the WVGIS Center.

Site characteristics of red spruce witness tree locations in the uplands of West Virginia, USA

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Knowledge, both of the historical range of spruce-dominated forests and associated site conditions, is needed by land managers to help define restoration goals and potential sites for restoration. We used an existing digital database of witness trees listed in deeds from 1752 to 1899 to compare characteristics of red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) sites to non-red spruce sites to gain an understanding of historical spruce-dominated forests in West Virginia. The analysis revealed that red spruce witness trees were found at significantly higher elevations than non-spruce witness trees across the study area. However, spruce witness trees in the Western Allegheny Mountains subsection were found at significantly lower elevations than non-spruce witness trees. Indicator species analysis determined red spruce to be associated with toe slopes, benches, and valleys, although most locations were on side slopes. Across the entire study area, red spruce witness trees were more likely to be found on northeastern aspects and on acidic and frigid soils of the Mandy series. Historically, red spruce was associated with American beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.), birch (Betula L.), and hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière). This information should be used to guide red spruce restoration efforts and shows that a range of ecological settings should be considered when setting goals and implementing active management.

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Reforestation of Red Spruce (Picea rubens) on the Cheat Mountain Range, West Virginia

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The Cheat Mountain salamander (Plethodon nettingi) is a federally endangered species that relies heavily on red spruce (Picea rubens) for habitat. P. rubens communities on the Cheat Mountain range in West Virginia have been disturbed by fires and logging, and regeneration of P. rubens stands are central to the survival of P. nettingi. A supervised and unsupervised landscape classification of three Landsat images over the past 26 years was conducted to analyze change in P. rubens communities on the Cheat Mountain range. Change detection results revealed that from 1986-2012 P. rubens stands had a growth increase of 52%, 18% loss, and 29% stayed the same over the last 26 years. P. rubens stands are vital habitat to the federally endangered P. nettingi and regrowth of P. rubens is vital in restoring a healthy population of the salamander on the Cheat Mountain range.

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Who are we?

This website has been established and is being managed by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy to support the work of the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI).

CASRI is a partnership of diverse interests with a common goal of restoring historic red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystems across the high elevation landscapes of Central Appalachia. It is comprised of private, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations who share a recognition of the importance of this ecosystem.

Contact Us

For more information, and volunteer opportunities, please contact Cindy Sandeno:

Cindy Sandeno
304-636-1800 ext. 194