Canadian Forest Service Publications
Changes in Understory Composition of Rural North American Temperate Forests after a 14-Year Period with Focus on Exotic and Sensitive Plant Species. Bellerose, J., Dupuch, A., Aubin, I., Forests (2022) 13, 678.
Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 40668
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Plain Language Summary
A better understanding of the mechanisms influencing changes in forest understory plant communities is crucial to protect temperate forests against stress from human-related disturbances and invasion by exotic species. We assessed changes in plant species composition over a 14-year period in the understory (i.e., forest floor) of 20 rural temperate forest stands located in Upper Saint Lawrence Valley (Québec). We identified plant species that underwent the largest changes in relative occurrence over time and assessed the influence of environmental factors on observed changes. We found small but significant changes in species composition across forest stands. The largest occurrence gains were observed in younger, post-disturbance stands, and in stands with lower plant species diversity. We observed increases in sensitive spring plant species throughout most sites. On the other hand, shade tolerant exotic species showed notable gains in only a few stands. Occurrence losses could not be attributed to specific environmental factors, possibly reflecting typical secondary succession dynamics in these communities. Overall, the forest understory plant community of these forests was relatively stable, retaining its potential for natural recovery after disturbance. Such studies are necessary to better anticipate the effect of stressors on temperate forest understory communities in the coming decades.