Tom Wessels, MA
Department of Environmental Studies
Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) communities in the high elevation wetlands of the Allegheny Plateau in West Virginia and montane forests of the Northern Blue Ridge in Virginia are described and assessed for balsam woolly adelgrid (Adelges picea) infestation. Four community types are described: balsam fir seepage wetlands, balsam fir and red spruce hummock woodland, balsam fir and northern red oak forest, and the red oak and balsam fir exposed woodland. Seepage wetlands are characterized by Carex gynandra, Alnus incana, and Viola cucullata, hummock woodlands by Pteridium aquilinim, Brachyelytrum electrum, and Lycopodium obscurum, balsam fir and red oak forests by Carex penslyvanica, Quercus alba, and Quercus rubra, and red oak and balsam fir exposed woodlands by Gaylusaccia boccata, Quercus rubra, and Menziesia pilosa. The flora of these communities consists of 232 known species in the West Virginia study sites and 97 known species in the Virginia study sites. Balsam woolly adelgid crown and stem infestation occurs in all study areas. Seventy-eight percent of the fir in West Virginia and 65% in Virginia sites were infested. Balsam fir hummock woodlands had the highest adelgid infestation rates. Stands of more dense fir were less likely to have high occurrence of infestation. Soil nutrient concentrations also appear to play a role in adelgid infestation severity and occurrence. Higher levels of soil magnesium, sodium, nitrogen, zinc, and manganese were associated with less frequent or less severe adelgid infestation. Higher levels of soil aluminum were associated with more sever and greater frequency of adelgid infestation.