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Recent successional processes investigated by pollen analysis of closed-canopy forest sites

TitleRecent successional processes investigated by pollen analysis of closed-canopy forest sites
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsBradshaw, RHW, Miller, NG
KeywordsAutogenic and allogenic processes, Chestnut blight, Forest hollow, Forest succession, Massachusetts, Mor humus, Pre-settlement vegetation

Forest succession was investigated by pollen analysis of two mor-humus sections and of peat from a 3 m-diameter hollow under mixed conifer-hardwood forest in north-central Massachusetts, USA. The humus profiles recorded a major forest perturbation caused by the removal of Castanea dentata by the chestnut blight (1910–1912), and the peat from the hollow extended the record beyond the time of colonial settlement (1733). Fagus grandifolia was a forest dominant before 1733 but declined abruptly upon settlement. Castanea, a late Holocene immigrant to the area, rapidly increased its pollen representation after settlement until the epidemic of the chestnut blight. Forest succession following the loss of Castanea involved the successive rise to dominance of Betula, Quercus, Acer rubrum, and Tsuga canadensis. These vegetational changes conform to observations made during studies of forest-stand composition by other workers. Allogenic factors such as logging, disease, and wind have initiated major compositional change, which has been modified by autogenic successional processes such as the gradual rise to dominance of Tsuga canadensis around one of the humus sections. The two humus sites resolve fine-scale pattern in former vegetation such as differences in the distribution of Pinus strobus and Castanea over 200 m, the distance between the mor-humus sites. These within-forest sites permit investigations of fine-scale vegetational patterns and processes that are of interest to forest ecologists.