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We described 38 relictual old-growth stands – with data on the mortality, regeneration, floristic richness, fuel load and disease incidence in our study area in the Tahoe Basin of California and Nevada. The stands are within the lower and upper montane zones (1900–2400 m a.s.l.) and they are rare, occupying < 2% of the land in the Basin's watershed. Correlation matrices and ANOVAs of forest types and conifer species with environmental gradients revealed significant relationships with elevation, distance east of the Sierran crest, slope aspect, annual precipitation, date of complete snow melt, litter depth and degree of soil profile development. Pathogens, parasites and wood-boring insects were present on 23% of living trees; 16% of all trees were dead. We compared these stands to a reconstruction of pre-contact Basin forests and to ecologically analogous old-growth forests of Baja California that have never experienced fire suppression management. Currently, overstorey trees (> 180 yr old) in the Basin stands have ca. 33% cover, 54 m2.ha−1 basal area and 107 individuals.ha−1, values very similar to reconstructions of pre-contact Basin forests and to modern Baja California forests. Understorey trees (60–180 yr old), however, are several times more dense than historic levels and species composition is strongly dominated by A. concolor, regardless of the overstorey composition. The ratio of Pinus : Abies has increased – and the age structure of extant stands predicts that it will continue to increase – from approximately 1:1 in pre-contact time to 1:7 within the next century. Disease incidence and mortality in Baja forests were lower. Although we quantitatively defined current Basin old-growth forests – in terms of stand structure – we realize that our definition will differ from that of both past and future old-growth forests unless management protocols are changed.
Gradients in acidity-alkalinity and nutrient availability were studied in 2 Sphagnum-dominated peatlands on the southeastern Italian Alps. Decreasing concentrations of most mineral elements (Ca2 , Mg2 , Mn2 , Al3 and Si4 ) in pore water indicated a progressively lower influx of mineral-soil water from the slightly minerotrophic conditions in the peatland margins to ombrogenous conditions in the central part of the peatlands. This was paralleled by decreasing concentrations of ash, bulk density, Ca, Fe and, partly, Mn in the peat. The nutrient gradient, as defined by pore water concentrations of N and P, was largely independent of the acidity-alkalinity gradient: NO3− and PO43− had similar concentrations throughout the gradient, whereas NH4 concentrations increased with increasing pore-water pH. In contrast, the peat nutrient gradient coincided with the acidity-alkalinity gradient, with total concentrations of N and P decreasing from the margin to the centre. Bryophytes and vascular plants had different responses along the acidity-alkalinity gradient and the nutrient gradient. Bryophyte distribution reflected the acidity-alkalinity gradient both in pore water and in peat. Vascular plant distribution was mainly influenced by variations in nutrient availability.
Three granite inselbergs and six dolerite dykes and their surroundings were investigated in the Central Namib, at the interface between the Namib Desert and Nama Karoo biomes. The main objectives of this study included a phytosociological interpretation of the described plant communities, explanation of the correlation of the communities with environmental variables and quantification of the relative contribution of different types of variables to structuring plant communities. Nine grassland and shrubland plant communities were recognized, largely organized according to general habitat, elevation, size of inselberg and geology. Soil properties, often thought to play an important role in arid environments, showed no clear patterns in the level of analyses used in this study. Other environmental parameters of importance in arid mountain habitats, such as slope aspect and angle, also played a minor role. The main implications of the study are: 1. Central Namib inselbergs, particularly granite domes, harbour diverse plant communities, often with species from neighbouring higher rainfall areas, and are thus of high conservation value. 2. The poor contribution of environmental variables in this study, which are conventionally used in field studies of plant community – environment relationships, may demand a critical review of additional parameters to be included when analysing plant community – environment relations in arid environments. In particular between-season variation, phytogeographic aspects and the heterogeneity of microhabitats, often contained within a plant community, need to be taken into account.
The focus of this study is the response of species to time of snowmelt and altitude in alpine areas and an examination of changes in species response to snowmelt as altitude increases and temperature decreases. Transects (n = 43) were placed evenly along an altitudinal gradient at Finse, Hardangervidda, western Norway, from ridges to late snowbeds. These gradients were systematically sampled (‘Repeated Gradient Analysis, RGA’) and an adjusted F-test was used to determine repeated trends in species distribution along the transects. Of the 41 taxa analysed 22 showed a significant change in expected occurrence in response to time of snowmelt (when a site becomes free of snow) as altitude increased. Three types of response were observed: (1) no change in response: (2) increased occurrence as altitude increases, i.e. the taxon invades snow-free sites as altitude increases, and (3) decreased occurrence as altitude increases, i.e. the taxon retreats from snow covered areas. It is suggested that the changes in response are due to both environmental factors (temperature related) and biological interactions. Decreases in expected occurrence are probably due to increased environmental severity as altitude increases (temperature related decreases). These species are represented by taxa preferring intermediate cover of snow. The invasion of earlier snow-free sites is probably due to reduced competition from lee-side taxa as altitude increases. A predictive model based on the species-environmental relationships suggests that a 1 °K temperature increase changes the limits of occurrence in response to time of snowmelt from 3 to 20 days for the different taxa.
The study was conducted in deciduous forests of two Swedish regions, Öland and Uppland. It had two objectives: to (1) test the species pool hypothesis by examining if differences in small-scale species richness are related to differences in large-scale species richness and the size of the regional species pool, and (2) to examine the relationship between species richness and productivity and its scale-dependence.
The first data set comprised 36 sites of moderate to high productivity. In each site, we recorded the presence of vascular plant species in nested plots ranging from 0.001 to 1000 m2 and measured several environmental variables. Soil pH and Ellenberg site indicator scores for nitrogen were used as estimators of productivity. The second data set included 24 transects (each with 20 1-m2 plots) on Öland in sites with low to high productivity. Species number, soil pH and relative light intensity were determined in each plot. The forest sites on Öland were more species-rich than the Uppland sites on all spatial scales, although environmental conditions were similar. Small-scale and large-scale species richness were positively correlated. The results present evidence in favour of the species pool hypothesis. In the nested-plots data set, species number was negatively correlated with pH and nitrogen indicator scores, whereas a unimodal relationship between species number and pH was found for the transect data set. These results, as well as previously published data, support the hump-shaped relationship between species richness and productivity in Swedish deciduous forests. Two explanations for the higher species richness of the sites with moderate productivity are given: first, these sites have a higher environmental heterogeneity and second, they have a larger ‘habitat-specific’ species pool.
Dispersal and retrieval site selection by mice, transport distance, cache depth, and emergence and survival of seedlings of Castanea crenata (Japanese chestnut) were investigated by a magnet-locating experiment in two habitat conditions (gap vs. forest understorey). Magnets were inserted into nuts (n = 450) and the nuts placed in the edge of forest gaps. Although wood mice (Apodemus speciosus and A. argenteus) initially buried nuts singly in shallow surface caches near the nut source, by the following spring these cached nuts were retrieved and re-cached in larger, deeper caches farther from the source, particularly in forest understories, probably to reduce the threat of pilferage. All the nuts cached in the forest understories were consumed, but 4 seedlings emerged in gaps, apparently because of lower foraging activity in the gaps by the mice. Seed size was not correlated with cache depth or cache site selection. With increasing seed size, transport distance increased, particularly in gaps, possibly due to a greater potential energy gain (relative to handling cost to the cacher), or to attempts to prevent density- or mass-dependent loss of caches by other foragers. Variable seed dispersal behaviour based on variation in seed size may influence the chances of colonization and distribution of the light-demanding Castanea trees in mosaic landscapes and may play an important role in community organization and dynamics.
In relation to the drought-prone and nutrient-poor habitat, vascular epiphytes are routinely referred to as inherently slow-growing plants, although actual evidence is rare. To test this notion we measured in situ growth of the understorey orchid Aspasia principissa and the tank bromeliad Vriesea sanguinolenta, and, for the latter species, also the growth under favourable conditions in the greenhouse. Using growth analysis we show: (1) that in an intraspecific comparison, small to intermediate individuals yield the highest relative growth rates (RGR) in situ: A. principissa: 1.6 10−3 d−1; V. sanguinolenta: 3.3 10−3 d−1; (2) that the bromeliad reaches maximum size after ca. 15 yr, while the orchid needs at least 20 yr; and (3) small V. sanguinolenta plants exhibit a highly plastic growth response to favourable conditions in the greenhouse, reaching an almost 10-fold increase in RGR. In spite of a substantial increase in growth under more favourable conditions, our results are consistent with the notion that epiphytes are inherently slow growing organisms.
We investigated the spatial and temporal pattern of edge influence on primary (forest structure) and secondary (understory structure and composition) responses at forest edges next to regenerating clear-cuts in Populus-dominated boreal forest in Alberta, Canada. We used before/after-harvest comparisons to determine whether there were significant effects of edge creation in the first and second year after harvest. We also investigated 5- and 16-yr-old edges to determine whether their structure and composition were significantly different from interior forest. Distance of edge influence (20 - 60 m) was not extensive compared to findings from studies conducted in other forest types. In the first two years after harvest, there were significant primary responses to edge creation including increased tree mortality, snag breakage and amount of downed coarse woody debris; as well as secondary responses including prolific vegetative regeneration of Populus spp. and a decrease in total shrub cover. Significant edge effects were still detectable 5 and 16 yr after edge creation, despite the rapid regeneration of Populus- dominated forest in the adjacent clear-cuts. These older edges showed evidence of past primary and secondary responses, including a more heterogeneous canopy, along with additional changes in understory composition. At both younger and older edges the distance of edge influence was greater for secondary responses (up to 60 m) than for primary responses (10 - 20 m). We hypothesize that secondary responses to edge creation start later than primary responses and that the distance of edge influence is greater for secondary (vs. primary) responses.
It has been proposed that in the harsh arctic and alpine climate zones, small microtopographic variations that can generate more benign conditions than in the surrounding environment could be perceived as safe sites for seedling recruitment. Cushion plants can modify wind pattern, temperature and water availability. Such modifications imply that cushion plants could act as ‘nurse plants’ facilitating the recruitment of other species in the community. This effect should be more evident under stressful conditions. We tested these hypotheses comparing the number of species that grow inside and outside Bolax gummifera cushions at two elevations (700 and 900 m a.s.l.) in the Patagonian Andes of Chile (50 °S). At both elevations, and in equivalent areas, the number of species was registered within and outside cushions. A total of 36 and 27 plant species were recorded either within or outside B. gummifera cushions at 700 and 900 m a.s.l., respectively. At 700 m a.s.l., 33 species were recorded growing within cushions and 29 outside them, while at 900 m a.s.l. these numbers were 24 and 13 respectively. At both elevations there were significantly more species growing within than outside cushions, and the proportion of species growing within cushions increased with elevation. Thus there is a nurse effect of cushion plants and it is more evident at higher elevations. Shelter from wind and increased soil water availability seem to be the factors that increase plant recruitment within cushions.
We focused on community boundaries in a sub-alpine forest landscape in the Shiretoko Peninsula, northern Japan. Gradient-directed transects were conducted on the northwestern slope (ranging 500–600 m a.s.l.) of Mount On'nebetsu (1331 m), where complex topography was formed by past landslides. Pioneer Picea glehnii made up a mosaic of pure stands related to landslides. Structural and compositional changes from P. glehnii pure stands to P. glehnii and Abies sachalinensis mixed stands were characterized by ca. 20 m transitional zones over the landscape. Stand density of the species changed across boundaries. A. sachalinensis preferred less undulated slopes with deep soil and P. glehnii preferred undulated rocky sites. Positive spatial associations between overstorey-understorey P. glehnii were found at undulated core parts of P. glehnii pure stands. Short-lived A. sachalinensis grew faster to the smaller maximum size than long-lived P. glehnii. Undulated topography controlled the increase of A. sachalinensis and provided regeneration sites for P. glehnii, which prevented the general trend of canopy replacement from P. glehnii to late-successional A. sachalinensis. However, the locations of current boundaries were not accordant with the topographic changes in the meso-scale landscape. Initial P. glehnii pure stands would extend to larger areas if current patterns reflect vegetation recovery since the last landslide. P. glehnii pure stands with accurate boundaries were not maintained by topographic complexity, but were dynamically arranged by the one-sided canopy replacements from P. glehnii to A. sachalinensis at less undulated slopes in the sub-alpine forest landscape.
We examined the response of tree seedling emergence and survival to the dieback of Sasa and canopy gap formation in an old-growth forest near Lake Towada, northern Japan. Synchronous death of Sasa occurred in 1995. We established four types of sampling sites differing in forest canopy conditions (Closed or Gap) and Sasa status (Dead or Live). Gap-Dead sites had the highest light levels and the greatest fluctuation in soil temperatures. The death of Sasa alone facilitated the emergence (Acer japonicum, Fagus crenata, Fraxinus lanuginosa, and Tilia japonica) and survival (Acanthopanax sciadophylloides, F. crenata, F. lanuginosa, Kalopanax pictus, and Sorbus commixta) of species with a seedling bank strategy. Cercidiphyllum japonicum grew at all sites at a higher density than other species, but survived well only in Gap-Dead sites. This behaviour was associated with a seed rain strategy. The additive effects of Sasa death and canopy gap formation promoted seedling emergence of pioneer tree species (Betula maximowicziana, Lindera umbellata, and Magnolia obovata), probably through break of dormancy by the large temperature fluctuation. In addition, the scarcity of advance regeneration in canopy gaps due to Sasa cover facilitates the regeneration of pioneer species. The dominance and dieback cycle of Sasa contributes to species diversity in this forest.
Winter and summer annuals in the Chihuahuan Desert have been intensively studied in recent years but little is known about the similarities and differences in the dynamics between these two communities. Using 15 yr of census data from permanent quadrats, this paper compared the characteristics and temporal dynamics of these two distinct, spatially co-existent but temporally segregated communities. Although the total number of summer annual species recorded during our 15 yr of observation was higher than winter annuals, the mean number of species observed each year was higher in the winter community. The winter community exhibited lower temporal variation in total plant abundance and populations of individual species, lower species turnover rate and higher evenness than the summer community. The rank abundances of species in winter were significantly positively correlated for a period of up to 7 yr while in summer significant positive correlations in rank abundance disappeared after 2 to 3 yr. The higher seasonal species diversity (i.e. number of species observed in each season) in winter rather than the overall special pool (over 15 yr) may be responsible for the greater community stability of winter annuals. The difference in long-term community dynamics between the two communities of annual plants are likely due to the differences in total species pool, life history traits (e.g. seed size), and seasonal climatic regimes.
The alien plant species and the ecological factors that facilitate their invasion to a coastal strip in the Baix Camp region (Tarragona, NE Spain) were studied. A detailed inventory of the area showed that 20% of the plant species, most of them from the American Continent, were aliens, many of which were strongly invasive.
At the habitat level, the relationships between the invasive behaviour and a number of autecological, ecological and habitat variables were analysed by means of logistic analyses. In the best model five variables were related to alien plant invasions: climatic affinity, disturbance of the invaded habitat, route of introduction, soil moisture during summer, and life form. To elucidate the environmental factors that could be responsible for alien plant invasions at a regional scale, the number of alien taxa and the environmental features at 13 localities of the western Mediterranean area were analysed. The warm lowlands, subjected to low annual rainfall and high population density, exhibited the greatest reception capacity for alien plants.
It is concluded that various specific environmental features – high mean temperatures, the abundance of riparian systems, the existence of biotopes with favourable water balance which harbour a great richness of alien species and the high human pressure to which the enclave is subjected, combined with the ecological requirements of the alien species and certain species attributes (biotype) can interact at different scales and have caused the over-representation of alien plants.
Are the dynamics of most ecological processes fundamentally increased in frequency or magnitude in fragmented habitats? Hyperdynamism could alter a wide range of population, community, and landscape phenomena, and appears to be evident in fragmented tropical, temperate, and boreal communities. I suggest some potential causes and consequences of hyperdynamism, and argue that the responses of many species and ecological processes to habitat fragmentation can be understood in this context.
Estimation of potential annual direct incident radiation has traditionally required numerical integration with simulation models. As an alternative, we present convenient equations for use in spreadsheet, GIS, and database applications. Input variables are latitude, slope, and aspect. The equations apply to 0–60°north latitude, slopes from 0–90°, and all aspects. By transforming aspect, the equations can also be applied as an index of heat load, symmetrical about a northeast to southwest axis.