Tennessee Arbor Day 2009
Event on High Point Mountain
Saturday, April 4, 2009

The logistics for Tennessee Arbor Day 2009 on High Point Mountain can be summarized as forty volunteers in ten teams planting 1,200 bare-root seedlings in two hours.  An important lesson-learned from the event is why surface mine reclamation practices in Tennessee are changing.

For the past 30 years, the traditional method for reclaiming surface mines has been to cover the sites with compacted soil and plant grass for quick growth to control erosion.  That’s how this surface mine site at the head of Smoky Creek was reclaimed in the 1970s. 


Mine site reclaimed by traditional methods in 1970s where compacted soil and thick grass vegetation were recently removed to expose loose, rocky spoil for planting of bare-root tree seedlings


Coal Creek Scholars, Jared and Jacob Phillips, illustrating the ease of planting bare-root seedlings with a dibble bar in the loose, rocky spoil

Coal Creek Scholars conducted an experiment by trying to penetrate the thick grass growing in compacted soil with a dibble bar to plant a bare-root American chestnut seedling.  After about 10 tries, they quit and returned to the portion of the site that Lexington Coal Company had recently prepared by stripping off the vegetation and compacted cover soil and loosening the underlying rocky spoil with a disc.  The ease at which a bare-root seedling can be planted in the loose, rocky spoil illustrates the ease at which tree roots will be able to grow and the ease at which rainfall will be able to reach the tree roots through infiltration.
The experiment also illustrates why surface mine sites are now being capped with loose, rocky spoil so bare-root seedlings can be planted and the sites can be reclaimed as forestland.  Rainfall infiltrates into the loose, rocky spoil to provide water for the tree roots rather than creating runoff that causes erosion.  Researchers have found that trees grow four times faster on mine sites prepared by the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) than on mine sites reclaimed by traditional methods.  Even more revealing from the research is that trees grow twice as fast on FRA sites than in a natural forest setting.


American chestnut planted by direct seeding on mine site prepared by the Forestry Reclamation Approach (i.e. loose, rocky spoil) in 2008 after six months of growth.  Note adjacent area reclaimed by traditional reclamation method where grass is growing on compacted soil cover.

About 250 American chestnuts were planted with oak, red bud, and other bare-root seedlings.  Survival and growth rates of the American chestnuts planted as bare-root seedlings will be compared to American chestnuts planted by direct seeding at the Zeb Mountain FRA site during a 2008 planting event.  Data gathered from the study will be used to select the preferred planting method when blight-resistant hybrid American chestnuts are ready for planting on mine sites prepared by the FRA method in a few years.
Volunteers who participated in American chestnut planting events in both 2008 and 2009 can attest to the fact that bare-root seedlings win out over direct seeding by a wide margin in the category, “ease of planting on FRA sites”.
COAL CREEK WATERSHED FOUNDATION VOLUNTEERS:

Leinart, Kyle – Coal Creek Scholar
Long, Zach -- Coal Creek Scholar
Phillips, Jacob – Coal Creek Scholar
Phillips, Jared – Coal Creek Scholar
Phillips, Jenny – Coal Creek Scholar
Moore, Carol
Thacker, Barry
Vandergriff, Ryan – Coal Creek Scholar
Vandergriff, Tyler – Coal Creek Scholar

Sponsors of event: 

Nature Conservancy, U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee State Parks, Lexington Coal Company, Triple H Coal Company, Tennessee Division of Forestry, American Chestnut Foundation, and Coal Creek Watershed Foundation.    

 

Click on images to enlarge:  
   

Links: 

Knoxville News-Sentinel article by Morgan Simmons at http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2009/mar/27/volunteers-to-plant-trees-Tennessees-Cumberland-Mo/  

UT Extension publication on “Tree Planting Procedures for Small, Bare-Root Seedlings” at http://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/spfiles/SP663.pdf

 

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