Recovery of forest plant communities in post-agricultural landscapes

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Abstract

As landscapes throughout Europe and eastern North America recover from past agricultural use, forests continue to reflect their agricultural history. For centuries after agriculture has ceased, plant communities on abandoned agricultural lands remain impoverished in herbaceous species characteristic of uncleared forests. To facilitate the recovery of biological diversity in these forests, and to anticipate the effects of future land-use decisions, we need to understand the process of recolonization. The unique interactions between forest herbs and agricultural history also allow us to explore some universal questions in ecology, such as how dispersal and environment limit species distributions.

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