Disturbance severity and community resilience in a boreal forest
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionRydgren, K., Okland, R.H., & Hestmark, G. (2004). Disturbance severity and community resilience in a boreal forest. Ecology, 85(7), 1906-1915.
We studied the resilience of southeastern Norwegian old-growth Picea abies forest floor vegetation to experimental disturbance. Five treatments, differing in depth of removal of vegetation and soil layers and making up a gradient in disturbance severity, and three controls, were replicated 10 times. The experiment was analyzed with respect to the full species composition before and for seven years after treatment. The soil-buried propagule bank and local, environmental conditionswere recorded before treatment. Total cover of vascular plants and bryophytes and lichens increased slowly after treatmentand was still below pre-disturbance levels after seven years. The rate of succession, measured as change in floristic dissimilarity between recordings made in successive years, declined with time for all treatments. The magnitude of vegetationchange was strongly influenced, by disturbance severity. DCAordination revealed a main gradient in species composition from undisturbed forest floor to severely disturbed vegetationthree years after disturbance, while in the fourth year, thedirection of vegetation change turned in the direction of pre-disturbance positions. The turning point represented the maximum abundance of pioneer species (e.g., Luzula pilosa and Pohlia nutans) relative to dominant species before the disturbance (e.g., Dicranum majus and Hylocomium splendens). The return to pre-disturbance positions from the fourth year was, however, slow and will probably take 5-25 more years to be completed if current trends continue. DCA ordination revealed twoadditional, interpretable, gradients in vegetation; one related to pulses of regeneration from the soil-buried propagulebanks the other represented a gradient in pre-disturbance environmental conditions. We demonstrate that one vegetation gradient related to time after disturbance is insufficient to account for the full complexity of revegetation processes following disturbance.