Cook, J. (College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Stevens Point, WI 54481). Vegetation changes in a central Wisconsin floodplain from pre-settlement to mid-21st century. J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 132:492–504. 2005.—The vegetation changes of a central Wisconsin floodplain from the mid-1800's to 2000 were documented, and the probable changes to 2050 projected. This was accomplished by use of survey witness trees in 1851, an extensive survey in 2000, and projection to ∼2050 using probable gap replacement frequencies and forest development theory. Between 1851 and 2000 extensive changes in relative abundance of tree species occurred. Silver maple (Acer saccharinum L.) exhibited the largest increase, and river birch (Betula nigra L.) and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus L.) the greatest decline; bur oak (Quercus macropcara Michx.) and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton (B. lutea Michx. f.) were noted by the surveyor but not found in 2000. Conversely, two species [hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana Walt.) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera L.)], that are present now were not found among the witness trees in 1851. The amount of open habitat remained approximately constant, but the degree of canopy closure in forests increased dramatically from 1851–2000. The probable causes of these changes were land clearing and harvesting during European settlement, supplemented by the hydrologic changes they induced. Collected data suggest that the current disturbance regime of scattered, small-scale canopy gaps will continue until the mid-21st century. If true, it is likely that another major shift in relative abundance of arboreal species will occur and there will be an increase in open habitat. Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica Marsh.) and red maple (Acer rubrum L.) will probably be the dominant tree species by mid-21st century due to their ability to regenerate widely, replace other species and to tolerate growing season flooding. In the absence of widespread, severe disturbance (e.g., clearcutting), it does not appear that the arboreal composition of the landscape will return to either 1851 or late 20th century conditions.
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