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1 July 1998 Historical Change in Vegetation and Disturbance on the Georgia Piedmont
C. Mark Cowell
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Due to the extensive removal of the forest cover of the southeastern piedmont during the 19th century and to the lack of systematic presettlement records for most of this region, there has been little basis for relating the piedmont's maturing postsettlement secondary forest to its pre-European condition. This study compares species composition patterns between pre-European and present periods for a portion of the Georgia piedmont that had a systematic presettlement land survey. Detrended correspondence analysis of presettlement, immature postsettlement, and mature postsettlement forests identifies a primary gradient that distinguishes between the vegetation of these periods on the basis of habitat moisture preferences and fire tolerance of species. A secondary gradient emphasizes life history characteristics of species that typically differentiate immature and mature postsettlement forests; presettlement forests were not dominated by the late successional species typical of mature postsettlement forests, but had abundant disturbance-favored taxa. Changes in the abundance of individual species from presettlement to mature postsettlement forests occurred across all habitat types. The xerophytic, fire-tolerant taxa that dominated presettlement forests (e.g., Pinus species, Quercus stellata, Q. velutina) are less important in mature postsettlement forests. Dominants of mature postsettlement forests (e.g., Q. alba, Liriodendron tulipifera, Carya species) are primarily mesophytic, fire-intolerant species that were far less prominent in presettlement forests. Marked contrasts in composition between presettlement and mature postsettlement forests of the piedmont have been produced by changes in the prevalent disturbance regime from fire-dominated dynamics to gap-phase processes.

C. Mark Cowell "Historical Change in Vegetation and Disturbance on the Georgia Piedmont," The American Midland Naturalist 140(1), 78-89, (1 July 1998).[0078:HCIVAD]2.0.CO;2
Received: 10 January 1997; Accepted: 1 October 1997; Published: 1 July 1998
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