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Dr. James Rentch

Assistant Research Professor
West Virginia University
Division of Forestry and Natural Resources
PO Box 6125, Morgantown, WV 26506-6125

Phone: (304) 293-2941 ext. 2480
Fax: (304) 293-2441

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Employment History

Courses Taught

Professional Societies





  • Ph.D. Forest Resource Science, West Virginia University (2001)
  • M.S. Environmental Science, Marshall Univeristy (1995)
  • A.B. Political Science, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (1969)

Employment History

  • Assistant Research Professor, West Virginia University (2001 - present)
  • Adjunct Instructor, Marshall University (1995 - 1997)
  • Engineering Technologist, American Electric Power (1984 - 1998)

Research Interests

  • Red spruce restoration
  • Oak ecology, silviculture, and management
  • Dendrochronology and stand history reconstruction
  • Wetland ecology

Current Research

  • Development of a Floristic Quality Index for West Virginia
    (with J.T. Anderson)
    This project developed a method of quantitatively ranking native vegetation by their tolerance to disturbance their fidelity to specific habitats, in order to evaluate and prioritize the relative conservation value of different natural areas. All wetland taxa in the state were assigned a coefficient of conservatism from 0 to 10 based on the following general dichotomy: 0 values were assigned to taxa that are well-adapted to high levels of disturbance and site degradation, and not limited to any particular plant community (e.g., exotic or introduced species), while values of 10 were assigned to taxa that were restricted to a narrow range of habitat conditions and relatively intolerant of habitat degradation. Floristic Quality Indices are then computed from the average C value and the number of native species. This technique may be used when the objective is to 1) identify natural areas with high conservation value, 2) compare the floristic quality among similar community types at different locations, 3) monitor trends in floristic quality over time, and 4) assess restoration efforts.

  • Baseline conditions in mixed northern hardwood-red spruce stands in the Allegheny Mountains of WV
    (with Tom Schuler and Mark Ford, USDA Forest Service)
    Part I developed baseline condition data (species composition, stand structure) of stands with a northern hardwood overstory and a red spruce (Picea rubens) understory. We also developed trial techniques of red spruce release, including overstory girdling, overstory herbicide stem-injection, or overstory cutting. Third, dendrochronological analysis was performed on each study stand to determine stand origins and patterns of development, and to predict potential response from treatments under growth simulations. Part II will determine natural disturbance regimes and gap-phase dynamics of this forest type, using transect and dendrochronological techniques. Spruce release clearance work, including a biological assessment of herbicide use, will occur over the summer of 2006 with initial stem treatment occurring in August-September 2006 or early summer 2007. Response measurement work will occur in summer 2007 and 2008.

  • Dendrochronological analyses for determination of host plant resistance to hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA)
    hemlock wolly adelgidThis project uses eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) tree-ring data from five stands, 80 plots, and 200 trees from in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (PA) to identify environmental factors that contribute to host plant resistance to hemlock woolly adelgid at stand and individual tree scales, and to determine the effect of site, plot, and tree covariates (crown vigor, plot-level infestation, etc.) on radial growth during hemlock woolly adelgid infestation. Tree-ring data were cross-dated and standardized and an index of decline was developed based on the number of consecutive years that a tree showed substandard radial growth. Two analysis techniques were tested to determine correlation of growth (i.e., decline) and crown and site factors: a) a logistic model was used to estimate regression parameter coefficients and standard errors of the independent variables, b) we also performed repeat measures analysis to account for within-subject (tree) covariability. In this analysis, the response variables were ring width index and raw ring width values.

  • Influence of nutrient availability and hydrology on plant community composition in three wetland community types in Canaan Valley, WV
    (with J. T. Anderson)

    Plant community composition was determined from a 900 m transect that traversed three community types: herbaceous, emergent, scrub-shrub, and forested wetland. Three replications of each type were compiled. In each community, monthly rates of nitrogen mineralization, nitrification, and plant available NH4, and NO3, along with plant available phosphorus will be estimated using anion and cation exchange resin bags buried in situ in 10 sub-plots within each of a total 9 sites along the 800 m belt transect. Three hypotheses will be tested. 1) As nutrient availability increases from low, to moderate, to high across a nutrient availability gradient, productivity (biomass) should also increase from low to moderate to high, 2) Low, intermediate, and high levels of nutrient availability should result in plant communities of low, high, and low species richness, and 3) Plant communities of intermediate biomass and high species richness should have more rare species associated with them.

  • Forest/tree growth trends and stand dynamics along elevational and aspect gradients in the George Washington National Forest
    (with D. W. McGill, J. Comp, and M. Meador)
    Tree ring data from representative pine (Pinus spp.) and oak (Quercus spp.) species are being compared to determine a) impacts of elevation and aspect on annual radial growth, and b) tree establishment trends, disturbance frequencies, and patterns of stand development on dry, mid-elevational plots in three locations in the George Washington National Forest.

Courses Taught

Professional Societies

  • Allegheny Chapter, Society of American Foresters
  • Southern Appalachian Botanical Society
  • Natural Areas Association
  • Tree-Ring Society 2000


Class Announcement

  • No announcement at this time

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