Fahey, Bob
Lorimer, Craig G.
Mladenoff, David J.

Habitat heterogeneity and life-history traits influence presettlement distributions of early-successional tree species in a late-successional, hemlock-hardwood landscape

Date created
In landscapes dominated by late-successional plant communities, early-successional species may lead a tenuous existence, persisting only as fugitives or relying on refuges in marginal habitats to provide a persistent seed source. The objective of this study was to relate fine-scale distributions of early-successional tree species in hemlock-hardwood forests of northern Wisconsin, USA to potential landscape persistence strategies. A special emphasis was placed on eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), a restoration priority in the region. Witness tree data from nineteenth century US Public Land Survey records (encompassing 40,610 km2 and 106,790 trees) were used with modern environmental data to relate species distributions to habitat characteristics. Early-successional tree species had strong positive associations with marginal habitats such as inclusions of sandy soil and margins of lakes, wetlands, and rivers. Marginal habitats occupied {textasciitilde}44 {%} of the landscape, which may help account for the abundance of early-successional species in our study area relative to other hemlock-hardwood forests. Populations of early-successional species in marginal habitats could also have provided important seed sources for the upland mesic landscape matrix, as >70 {%} of the landscape was within 200 m of these habitats. The degree to which early-successional species were limited to marginal habitats largely followed predictions based on species life-history characteristics, except that white pine was more common than expected in upland mesic habitats. These findings illustrate the potential importance of landscape heterogeneity for persistence of early-successional species in late-successional forest landscapes and provide baseline information on habitat associations and landscape dynamics that will be useful in restoration efforts.
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Volume, Issue, Page Number
27, 7, 999-1013
Related Entities
Landscape Ecology (published by)