HABITAT FRAGMENTATION AND DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE FOR A COMMON PLANT: TRILLIUM IN OLD-GROWTH FOREST

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Abstract

I studied the influence of forest fragmentation on an understory herb, Trillium ovatum, in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon, where logging practices over the past 35 yr have created a mosaic of fragments surrounded by clearcuts and tree plantations. The age of trillium plants can be estimated by counting the annual constrictions on their rhizomes. Based on data collected by Whittaker in 1949 (i.e., pre-fragmentation) and a survey I conducted in 1995, I estimated that the process of clearcutting and subsequent conifer planting results in the mortality of almost all trillium (∼97.6%). In general, the remaining plants are not recruiting new individuals, even in sites clearcut 30 yr ago. Thus, trillium is restricted to smaller amounts of remnant, uncut forest. My study also demonstrated that populations in forest remnants that were within ∼65 m of forest-clearcut edges have had almost no recruitment of young plants since the time of the adjacent clearcutting, while forest interior populations contained higher recruitment levels. Projections based on these recruitment estimates indicated that edge populations will decline in size and interior populations will not decline. This study provides the first evidence of demographic changes in plant populations resulting from habitat fragmentation, and it offers evidence for the mechanisms responsible for such demographic changes.

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