The experiment first required setting a 100m tape as a baseline. Next, a 50m tape was set every 20m perpendicular to the 100m tape. Along the 50m tape line, a flag was set every 10m to serve as a reference point. At each flagged point on the 50m tape line, four quadrants were selected and the nearest tree was selected in each quadrant. For each tree selected, distance was measured from the flagged point. Diameter at breast height (DBH) was also measured using a ruler tool for each tree.
After data was collected, Microsoft Excel was used to calculate relative density, density, basal area, relative basal area, frequency, relative frequency, and importance value.
The dominant species, in terms of abundance, in the overstory canopy of the VCU Rice Center was Loblolly Pine, while the least dominant species was the American Holly. The total density of all species in the forest was approximately 897.0 m2. The Loblolly Pine also seemed to be the most influential species as its importance value was 185.
Across Central Virginia, species such as Loblolly Pine, American Holly, Winged Elm, Red Maple, White Oak, Sweetgum, Southern Red Oak, and Tulip Poplar are fairly popular and common to find (Powell et al., 2016). The lack of a dominating presence of non-native species throughout the forest demonstrates the absence of a transition stage for the forest life cycle (Flory and Clay, 2010). There were also no signs of recent flooding and fires around the area which demonstrates that the area has not had recent disturbances.
Uniformity in growth and distribution of the major tree species listed above shows that the forest is at its mature state in succession (Cooper, 1913). While the Loblolly Pine tree species is dominant, the other tree species are still successfully growing and not all successions lead to a few notable tree species . The three-dominant species at VCU Rice Center forest seem to be the Loblolly Pine, Red Maple, and Sweetgum . NatureServe, a wildlife conservation organization details that the forest community should be classified as Loblolly pine – Red Maple – Sweetgum with “temperate and boreal forest” classification (2018).
Throughout the experiment, there were numerous limiting factors that may have impacted the study. The presence of sweetgum seed pods at the trunks of all the trees were sometimes misleading as Loblolly Pines would sometimes be mistaken for Sweetgum trees. In addition, due to rainy weather when the study was carried out, the bark color and bark texture properties were hard to distinguish from different tree species. The limitations, however, were mainly sources of human error. Nevertheless, the point-quarter sampling method itself is a more promising tool to measure and calculate density of tree species compared to other approaches of measuring density (Dix, 1961). Regardless of the limitations, the study is important to understand classifications of trees in the Central Virginia area. Understanding the stage of the forest helps identify the health of the community, environment, and precautions to take in order to preserve the forest community.