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Keywords:

  • Ancient forest;
  • Dispersal limitation;
  • Life-history trait;
  • Post-agriculture;
  • Recent forest;
  • Spring geophyte

Abstract

Questions

At least half of the European woodland is recent and most stands have been under heavy management since the Industrial Revolution. Woodland herbs have adapted to the conditions of the forest interior and many species occur at lower frequencies in recent habitats as well as in young stands. We compared herbaceous plant composition of forests with different land-use history and looked for life-history traits that could be responsible for the differences.

Location

Bakony Mountains, Western Hungary, Central Europe.

Methods

Adjacent old ancient, young ancient and post-agricultural recent forest stands were surveyed in the submontane beech zone in Western Hungary. Frequency data were recorded for herbaceous plants, indicator species analysis was carried out and trait-based species groups were identified.

Results

Species composition differed among all three categories. The most profound difference was in the occurrences of ancient forest species (species with low dispersal ability and early flowering). These were most abundant in old ancient forests, while three species were entirely missing from recent stands. Young stands were dominated by few shade-tolerant herbs and lacked most ancient forest species. Post-agricultural woodland was largely dominated by competitive species.

Conclusions

Current forest management as well as past agricultural use influenced herb composition. Reintroduction of ancient forest herbs might be necessary in the recent forests.