Western New York has experienced extensive agricultural land abandonment since the early 1900s. The objectives of this study were to (1) sample plots representing a chronosequence to describe the stages of old-field succession and (2) follow these plots for six years to track year-to-year variation in species composition. Dominant species in the early stages (30 years following abandonment) of succession were Solidago spp. (41% cover) and Rhamnus cathartica (20%). By mid-succession (50 years following abandonment), Rhamnus cathartica (39%) and Fraxinus americana (39%) became more important. Dominant late successional (70 years following abandonment) species included Fagus grandifolia (34%), Ostrya virginiana (24%), and Prunus serotina (15%). Every iteration of sampling included unique species, indicating that new species were continually entering the site, but were not successfully establishing. This pattern mirrors the initial floristic composition model of old-field succession. However, after several years of canopy closure, the stands appeared to enter an understory-reinitiation stage, which allowed new species to establish and form a mature forest of species that were absent from the early and mid-succession area.
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