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Understory succession in post-agricultural oak plantations: Habitat fragmentation affects forest specialists and generalists differently

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The herbaceous understory forms the richest stratum in temperate broadleaved forests in terms of plant diversity. Understanding the process of understory succession is thus of critical importance for the development of management guidelines for biodiversity restoration in post-agricultural plantation forests.
We studied effects of stand age, forest fragmentation, and soil and canopy conditions on species richness and abundance of four species groups in the understory of post-arable oak plantations in southern Sweden: herbaceous forest specialists, habitat generalists and open land species, and woody species.
The group of forest specialists may approach the richness of continuously forested sites after 60-80 years in non-fragmented plantations, but many forest species were sensitive to habitat fragmentation. Open-land species richness decreased during succession, while the richness of woody species and of generalists remained stable, and were not affected by fragmentation. Abundance of generalists gradually decreased in non-fragmented plantations, probably due to competition from colonizing forest specialists. Soil pH in post-arable stands remained consistently higher than in continuously forested stands, which maintained differences in species composition. The development of a shrub layer seemed to imply a competitive advantage for forest specialists compared to generalist species. For successful recovery of a rich understory, we suggest that post-arable plantations should be established on loamy soils of intermediate to high pH proximate to older forest with source populations, and that a continuous overstory canopy cover of 70-80% is maintained by regular light thinnings and promotion of a shrub layer.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftForest Ecology and Management
Vol/bind262
Udgave nummer9
Sider (fra-til)1863-1871
Antal sider9
ISSN0378-1127
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2011

ID: 37819049