Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Foster Levy

Thesis Professor Department

Biological Sciences

Thesis Reader(s)

Michael Cody, Tim McDowell


The Black Mountain range of western North Carolina supports some of the most extensive, but threatened high elevation forests in the southern Appalachians. Of particular note, the insect pathogen, balsam woolly adelgid (Adelges piceae Ratzeburg) has been present on Mt. Mitchell for over fifty years. In anticipation of potential changes in forest composition, vegetation surveys were first conducted in 1966 on nine one-acre plots near the summit of Mt. Mitchell. These plots were re-surveyed in 1978, 1985 and 2002. The purpose of this study was to re-census those plots and use those data to analyze long-term trends in forest composition for fir, spruce-fir, and spruce-fir-hardwood forest types. Since the 1960s and 1970s, all three forest types have experienced a transition away from an understory with a preponderance of Fraser fir (Abies fraseri (Pursh) Poir.) seedlings and saplings, to forests with higher densities of canopy and sub-canopy fir. Canopy red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg.) has similarly increased in density in the fir and spruce-fir types but declined in the spruce-fir-hardwood forest type. In all types, there has been a sharp decline in hardwood seedlings/saplings since a hardwood seedling explosion in 1978. The current analyses indicate that fir and spruce-fir forests have regenerated since the most severe die-offs and that each forest type will experience future impacts from balsam woolly adelgid but these will occur in a non-synchronous pattern.

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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