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Landform-Mediated Differences in Successional Pathways Among Upland Forest Ecosystems in Northwestern Lower Michigan

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Seedling and sapling densities were compared with current overstory composition in 30 upland forest stands in northwestern Lower Michigan to study potential successional pathways. The patterns of compositional change were strongly related to topographic and edaphic differences among glacial landforms. Glaciofluvial landforms, currently dominated by oak, have relatively high densities of oak seedlings (4913 stems/ha) that seldom move into the sapling layer (10 stems/ha). Oak-dominated ecosystems on hilly ice-contact stratified drift exhibited relatively high densities of red maple saplings (48 stems/ha). Oak-dominated ecosystems on extremely well drained outwash plains exhibited sparse sapling regeneration of any species; red maple was typically absent, and oak saplings were usually in an apparent state of decline. Differences in the potential for recruitment of saplings into the overstory among these ecosystems may be attributable to differences in fire history or site-dependent effects on the competitive abilities of species. Morainal landforms, currently supporting relatively diverse northern hardwood overstories, showed little potential recruitment of any species other than sugar maple. Glacial landforms in northwestern Lower Michigan direct compositional change by influencing soil moisture and nutrient availability, and historical patterns of disturbance and species establishment. For. Sci. 33(2):445-457.

Keywords: Succession; ecosystem classification; landscape ecology; oak regeneration

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: USDA Forest Service, 421 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, MI 49601

Publication date: June 1, 1987

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