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Optimizing Select Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) Reforestation Methods within an Artificial Bald at Mount Buckley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Benjamin Smith1, Shawn P. Brown2,*, John Frampton3, AnneMargaret Braham3, C. Elizabeth Stokes4, and Richard Baird5

1Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695. 2Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152. 3Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695. 4FWRC-Sustainable Bioproducts Department, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, 39762. 5BCH-EPP, Box 9655, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 22, Issue 3 (2023): 333–351

Abstract
Abies fraseri (Fraser Fir) has a range that is restricted to high-elevation stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains with few suitable locations. Adelgid piceae (Balsam Wooly Adelgid) depredation that induced high mortality and chronic losses, and other anthropogenic causes, have led to Fraser Fir being designated as an endangered species by the IUCN Red List. There is great interest in restoring Fraser Fir through managed reforestation efforts, especially in protected areas such as Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To optimize Fraser Fir reestablishment in formerly forested sites, we designed a study to examine reforestation success by comparing survival and growth using treatments including mycorrhizal seedling transplants, local seedling transplants, local soil inocula, and mulching conditions to suppress surrounding vegetation. We found that while some treatments increased seedling survival and growth, any benefit was slight compared to local seedling transplants from adjacent mature Fraser Fir stands and/or local soil inocula. Greenhouse manipulations were more costly and time intensive for very little added benefit. We conclude that transplanting local seedlings with native soil to restore damaged sites provides the maximum return on investment and is a viable option for reforestation of Fraser Fir, but a sufficient local seedling bank may not always be available.

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