Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Scott K. Gleeson


Historically, the Kentucky Inner Bluegrass blue ash-oak savanna-woodland was the primary ecosystem of the Inner Bluegrass Region (IBR) of Kentucky. After European settlement, the majority (>99%) of Bluegrass savanna was converted to agricultural and urban land uses. Currently remnant savanna tree species are failing to recruit. Therefore, a long-term restoration ecology project researching competition and disturbance on seedling establishment, survival, and growth has been established at Griffith Woods (the largest remaining savanna in Kentucky) in Harrison Co., KY. Fourteen native hardwood tree species (a total of 6,168 seedlings) have been experimentally planted. Light, soil, surrounding vegetation, and herbivory, factors thought to influence seedling survival, have been initially assessed. Results show that soils differed spatially in P, Ca, Mg, Zn, pH, N percent and soil organic matter percent. Light was significantly reduced by diffusive filtering through vegetation. Vegetation biomass was influenced by pH and Mg. Initial seedling survival was high, but significantly differed by species type, location, and soil pH, Mg, and Zn. This research demonstrates that under a similar range of conditions, native hardwood tree seedling establishment is possible. Therefore, the potential exists to restore Bluegrass savanna-woodland in order to return proper ecological functioning into a degraded landscape.