Co-ordinating Editor: M. Partel.
Travelling to a former sea floor: colonization of forests by understorey plant species on land recently reclaimed from the sea
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
© 2009 International Association for Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 21, Issue 1, pages 167–176, February 2010
How to Cite
Pierik, M., Van Ruijven, J., Bezemer, T. M. and Berendse, F. (2010), Travelling to a former sea floor: colonization of forests by understorey plant species on land recently reclaimed from the sea. Journal of Vegetation Science, 21: 167–176. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-1103.2009.01134.x
- Issue published online: 14 JAN 2010
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2009
- Received 16 June 2009; Accepted 23 September 2009.
- Forest age;
- Forest area;
- Forest herbs;
- Habitat fragmentation
Questions: What are important forest characteristics determining colonization of forest patches by forest understorey species?
Location: Planted forests on land recently reclaimed from the sea, the Netherlands.
Methods: We related the distribution of forest specialist species in the understorey of 55 forests in Dutch IJsselmeer polders to the following forest characteristics: age, area, connectivity, distance to mainland (as a proxy for distance to seed source) and path density. We used species of the Fraxino-Ulmetum association for the Netherlands as reference for species that could potentially occur in the study area.
Results: Area and age of the surveyed forests explained a large part of the variation in overall species composition and species number of forest plant species. The importance of connectivity and distance to the mainland of forest habitats became apparent only at a more detailed level of dispersal groups and individual species. The importance of forest parameters differed between dispersal groups and also between individual species. After 60 years, 75% of the potential pool of wind-dispersed species has reached the polders, whereas this was only 50% for species lacking specific adaptations to long-distance dispersal. However, the average percentage of successful colonizing species present per forest was substantially lower, ranging from 15 to 37%.
Conclusions: The data strongly suggest that the colonization process in polder forests is still in its initial phase, during which easily dispersed species dominate the vegetation. Colonization success of common species that lack adaptations to long-distance dispersal is affected by spatial configuration of the forests, and most rare species that could potentially occur in these forests are still absent. Implications for conservation of rare species in fragmented landscapes are discussed.