Changes in Urban Forest Plant Communities After Three Decades of Fragmentation

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Use of historical data can reveal ecological changes that occur on a timescale longer than most researchers are able to devote to an average study. This project makes use of historical data to track long term changes occurring in forest communities in an urban setting. While these urban forest fragments have remained uncleared, they are still perturbed by forces that are common in human encroached habitats. Changes taking place in these communities may not be evident until examined on a broader time scale as the changes are part of an "extinction debt" paid after initial alteration of the habitat (Tilman 1994). We located 10 forest fragments in the Milwaukee urban area that were surveyed in 1973 by Hoehne for densities and frequencies of plant species in the canopy, shrub layer, and ground layer. We resurveyed sites by replicating the methods of the previous study so data could be compared directly. We examined changes in Shannon diversity indices that have occurred over the three decade time span as well as shifts in community composition.


Presented at the 98th Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN.

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