Understory Vegetation in Old-Growth and Second-Growth Tsuga Canadensis Forests in Western Massachusetts

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Understory Vegetation in Old-Growth and Second-Growth Tsuga Canadensis Forests in Western Massachusetts

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Title: Understory Vegetation in Old-Growth and Second-Growth Tsuga Canadensis Forests in Western Massachusetts
Author: D’Amato, Anthony W.; Orwig, David A.; Foster, David Russell

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Citation: D'Amato, Anthony W., David A. Orwig, and David R. Foster. 2009. Understory vegetation in old-growth and second-growth Tsuga canadensis forests in western Massachusetts. Forest Ecology and Management 257(3): 1043-1052.
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Abstract: We compared the understory communities (herbs, shrubs, and tree seedlings and saplings) of old-growth and second-growth eastern hemlock forests (Tsuga canadensis) in western Massachusetts, USA. Second-growth hemlock forests originated following clear-cut logging in the late 1800s and were 108–136 years old at the time of sampling. Old-growth hemlock forests contained total ground cover of herbaceous and shrub species that was approximately 4 times greater than in second-growth forests (4.02 ± 0.41%/m^2 versus 1.06 ± 0.47%/m^2) and supported greater overall species richness and diversity. In addition, seedling and sapling densities were greater in old-growth stands compared to second-growth stands and the composition of these layers was positively correlated with overstory species composition (Mantel tests, r > 0.26, P < 0.05) highlighting the strong positive neighborhood effects in these systems. Ordination of study site understory species composition identified a strong gradient in community composition from second-growth to old-growth stands. Vector overlays of environmental and forest structural variables indicated that these gradients were related to differences in overstory tree density, nitrogen availability, and coarse woody debris characteristics among hemlock stands. These relationships suggest that differences in resource availability (e.g., light, moisture, and nutrients) and microhabitat heterogeneity between old-growth and second-growth stands were likely driving these compositional patterns. Interestingly, several common forest understory plants, including Aralia nudicaulis, Dryopteris intermedia, and Viburnum alnifolium, were significant indicator species for old-growth hemlock stands, highlighting the lasting legacy of past land use on the reestablishment and growth of these common species within second-growth areas. The return of old-growth understory conditions to these second-growth areas will largely be dependent on disturbance and self-thinning mediated changes in overstory structure, resource availability, and microhabitat heterogeneity.
Published Version: doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2008.11.003
Other Sources: http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/publications/pdfs/Damato_ForestEcology_2009.pdf
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Open Access Policy Articles, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#OAP
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:4317710
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