Spatial patterning and population structure of a common woodland herb, Trillium erectum, in primary and post-logging secondary forests

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We investigated the population age structure and spatial patterning of a common understory perennial, Trillium erectum var. album, in primary and post-logging secondary (industrially logged in the early 1900s) cove forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Within each of 8 T. erectum populations (4 in primary forest and 4 in secondary forest), we mapped the locations of all T. erectum plants in a 10 m × 10 m plot located within the center of each population. We recorded the height and life stage of each plant and excavated a randomly selected subset for age determination. Trillium erectum populations in primary forests displayed a somewhat stronger and more consistent spatial structure than those found in secondary forests. However, aside from being on-average younger due to a higher concentration of juveniles, age structures of secondary forest populations were similar to those of primary forests and both forest types had similar maximum plant ages. Our results, when considered with the life history of the species, suggest that logging did not eliminate T. erectum from secondary forests. Rather, residual plants and patches of plants that survived logging provided the propagules needed to expand and reestablish populations following logging. This relatively rapid recovery stands in stark contrast to the slow recovery observed by others in post-agricultural secondary forest. When considered in the context of other studies of post-disturbance recovery in secondary forests, our results suggest that the full history of a site must be carefully considered when examining the impacts of disturbance on forest perennial herbs. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Forest Ecology and Management