Vegetation changes in boreo–nemoral forest stands depending on soil factors and past land use during an 80 year period of no human impact


Information on the long-term changes in plant communities that occur without human interference is limited, due to insufficient studies where vegetation can be resurveyed. In 1912, a strict nature protection reserve, with non-intervention management, was established on Moricsala Island in Latvia, located in the boreo–nemoral forest zone. Prior to establishment of the nature reserve, part of the island area was used for agriculture. The island is now covered almost entirely by forest dominated by Quercus robur L. and Tilia cordata Mill. on sandy soils. Resurvey was conducted in 2011 in 17 plots in which tree layers and the understory vegetation had been described in 1930. The plots were classified into two groups based on tree species composition in 1930 to determine changes in species composition. Differences in understory and tree canopy composition between these groups persisted over the period between the studies, in relation to soil factors and past stand history. Considerable turnover of species occurred, with a decrease of species typical of open habitats and replacement by species typical of nemoral (temperate deciduous) forest plant communities. In the past, Q. robur had likely established in open habitats created by agricultural land use or past fire but is presently not regenerating in the understory.

Canadian Journal of Forest Research