Catastrophic windthrow and postdisturbance salvage logging each have the potential to profoundly influence understory vegetation communities. This Study compared understory vegetation cover, composition, and diversity in Routt National Forest, a subalpine forest in northwestern Colorado that Sustained a 10 000 ha blowdown in 1997 and was partially salvage logged in 1999. Understory and edaphic variables were measured in five heavily wind-disturbed Picea-Abies stands. five stands salvage logged 20 months after the blowdown, and five intact stands. Understory species cover and diversity were greater in blown down areas than in salvage-logged or control areas. Community composition of each treatment area was distinct and related to gradient in organic soil depth, which reflected the severity of Understory disturbance. Composition and diversity in blowdown areas relative to control areas stabilized in the 5 years following the blowdown, but vegetation Cover Continued to increase. Blowdown areas contained early and late Successional species. Salvage-logged areas exhibited a shift towards graminoid dominance. This structural change could delay future conifer seedling establishment. The interaction among disturbance severity, Understory vegetation composition, and regeneration dynamics should be considered in future decisions to salvage log similar areas because the long-term effects of salvage logging are unknown.
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