"Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

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Will Blozan
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"Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Feb 05, 2012 8:58 pm

NTS,

Just a quick report before bed. Today Michael Davie and I spent most of the day surveying a "super cove" discovered via recently obtained LiDAR data interpretated by Josh Kelly, Michael Davie and Jess Riddle. The site near the abandoned town of Elkmont was the north slope of Burnt Mountain which ironically is flanked on the north side by superlative forest and on the south and upper slopes by grape thickets. The site was very rich and more diverse than other "super coves". Josh was able to identify over 40 LiDAR "hits" over 170' and three over 180'- basically a continous high canopy across the slope. Very few sites match this signature density so we were stoked.

The LiDAR was comparable to other ground-truthed areas- some trees over predicted and others under. The highest points were leaning trees on steep slopes but some of the lower points turned out to be the taller trees since they leaned upslope the high point was upslope of the base.

We were able to get an initial Rucker Index of 152.7 for the small area. I think this may be the tallest micro-site Rucker Index? More searching will bring it up a bit. I have photos but seriously, they look look every other similar young second-growth site in the southern Appalachians. I'll post them later.

This site was probably around 90 years old and unfortunately, eaten by earthworms.

Rucker 10 152.7

Tuliptree 180.3 (180.2' tree nearby)
Biltmore ash 162.2 (tallest recorded- also 154.7')
Bitternut 160.1 (tallest recorded)
Sycamore 154.7
White basswood 151.0 (third tallest in Smokies)
N. red oak 148.4
Black cherry 146.2 (tallest in Smokies)
Yellow buckeye 144.1 (mid-story tree)
Red maple 143.2
Cucmbertree 137.0 (token 'cause we needed another tree for the RI...)

We also looked at a cove near Cucumber Gap and Mike hit a 184.9' tuliptree- tallest known tree in Tenneessee!!! Many others in the high 170's.

We literally passed under probably 60-70 tuliptrees over 170' today. Infact, we did not really bother with trees less than 175'...

Will

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edfrank
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by edfrank » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:32 pm

Will, Michael,

Congratulations on finding the amazing site. (Also Jess and Josh for seeing it on LiDAR.) It is really impressive Rucker Index for a small area. I looked up some of the history of Elkmont on the web, pretty interesting itself. I suppose I should be jealous of your plethora of 170+ trees in the Smokies, while we fight between Cook Forest and MTSF for 150 foot white pines, but on the other hand these white pines are the tallest in our region so...

Keep exploring these exceptional coves and writing about them. I look forward to your photos.

I will see you at Cook in April. I don't know how much of the event I will be able to attend, but I will at least make the tree climb.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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dbhguru
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by dbhguru » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:43 am

Will, Ed,

The Smokies continue to produce like no other site in the East. That is a recurring theme. To my mind, thanks to LIDAR, the big news is the sheer number of tuliptrees and tuliptree sites that have many trees exceeding 170 feet. The 170s are becoming a ho-hum response. I could never have imagined that. We're now focusing attention on 180s. I remember when we hadn't even confirmed a single 170. Then along came Baxter Creek and we didn't think any site could surpass Baxter. That is history, but I like to periodically revisit our past thinking. It gives me a better sense of what may be left to discover.

Tomorrow, Bart Bouricius and I will visit Ryan's Connecticut site to measure some 150-foot tuliptrees near the town of Trumbull. When Monica and I visit Monica's brother in Southport, we pass near Trumbull, and I see tuliptrees in a swath of woodlands along parkway route. But never imagined trees much over 130 - maybe a couple of 140s. Here it is 2012, and we're finally putting CT on the map.

I'm sure that with all of Josh and Jess's expert analysis, we'll eventually exhaust the Great Smoky Mountains super sites, but viva la the search. Oops, according to the Mayan calendar, we've got to find them all before the end of 2012. Right?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by Bart Bouricius » Mon Feb 06, 2012 11:56 am

Will,

Sounds like a wonderful site. You say 2 Tulips squeaked above 80'

Bart

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bbeduhn
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by bbeduhn » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:26 pm

So Tennessee does have a horse in the tallest tree in the east race. It's interesting that tulips dominate in height but don't thoroughly dominate as a species like they often do in North Carolina. The northern facing, rich soils obviously play a part. It's nice to see so many other species competing in the ridiculously high canopy near Elkmont.

I'm reminded of a fairly recent post stating that TN could be home to the tallest trees in the east.

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eliahd24
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by eliahd24 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:00 pm

Holy smokes! Great finds. I can't even imagine a Bitternut that tall.

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eliahd24
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by eliahd24 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:02 pm

p.s.- I think ENTS is still clearly in the "Golden Age" of tree (height) measuring!

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Chris
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by Chris » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:33 pm

Wow, another amazing site. Makes me miss the Great Smokies.

I am sure this has been discussed before and people smarter than I have thought about it, but does anyone know why these "young", secondary growth sites keep coming up as the tallest sites ? Assuming there are some fuzzy physiological limits to the heights certain trees species can attain, I would imagine the oldest trees in the richest sites would be the tallest [maybe not by much, but still....]....have these young trees just haven't had their crowns knocked out, does Tulip Poplar dominance decrease with forest age [thereby allowing more, "shorter" species to bring down site totals], did clear cutting, that doesn't mimic smaller "natural" gap openings, allow for unnaturally high density forest that "force" extreme heights?

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Larry Tucei
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by Larry Tucei » Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:04 pm

Will, Congrats to all envolved in locating these tall trees in Tn. It's amazing how NTS discoveries keep raising the heights of trees discovered all over the East. 180' wow! More and more tree species are reaching for the elusive 200' mark. The skies the limit! Larry

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mdavie
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Re: "Super Cove" Sunday- Elkmont, TN TALLEST FOREST?

Post by mdavie » Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:21 pm

Chris wrote:
I am sure this has been discussed before and people smarter than I have thought about it, but does anyone know why these "young", secondary growth sites keep coming up as the tallest sites ?


It seems to have to do with a particular combination of factors (generally speaking). One thing is that tuliptree is one of those few species which can outcompete in early succession and also just keep on going, getting older and bigger. All of these tall fast-growing trees we're finding are in very productive soils with ample moisture and almost always have topographic protection; though even without the topography, they grow so evenly that they protect each other in dense stands very well. Most of these sites, while they were cut, were not farmed, which tends to degrade the soil structure more than just logging. Often it's only after a hundred years or more (barring a significant environmental event) that the crowns start getting more beaten up and jagged and there is finally some attrition. Crowns that have become slightly more emergent are less protected, and thus more likely to be damaged in storms. The overall canopy starts becoming textured and creates more wind eddies and changes in flow over the surface. Large weighted limbs may finally break, and can cause decay to extend back into the stem. Whole trees eventually uproot and create greater gaps and holes.

However. As we found on Deep Creek (and possibly will in a few other places) large old trees can still get tall. They just have to have the right combination of soil, water, protection, and luck to make it (or make it back). You asked if tuliptree dominance decreases with age, and I'd say generally, "kind of". The Fork Ridge tuliptree was in a tuliptree dominated grove. A number of the largest tuliptrees are in tuliptree dominated groves, though they usually aren't quite as ridiculously dominant as they are in these younger forests.

burnt.jpg
This photo is from Burnt Mountain. Nearly all of the trees you can see here are tuliptrees. There's nothing to stop them from dominating, so they do. They may also have some allelopathic qualities that come into play, but I'm not sure.

Burnt Mountain may not stay on top for very long, by the way— but it's hard to say. There are still a lot of places to check out.

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