, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 35-49

Community attributes of atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) swamps in disturbed and undisturbed Pinelands watersheds

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Abstract

We assessed the effect of regional watershed conditions on plant community attributes, scedbed and seedling density, and environmental conditions in New Jersey Pinelands Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) swamps under three disturbance regimes (high, moderate, and low). High regional watershed disturbance, defined by the percentage basin cover of combined residential and agricultural development, was associated with elevated pH, specific conductance, and nutrient concentrations in surface waters adjacent to our study sites. High disturbance sites generally had lower understory species richness and differed from other sites in overall understory species composition. High canopy red maple (Acer rubrum) cover and high canopy closure were also associated with swamps in high disturbance basins. Because other environmental variables did not differ significantly between disturbance types and red maple is a common associate, of cedar throughout the Pinelands, differences in species richness and composition may be related to canopy conditions rather than the effects of watershed disturbance. Regional differences in biogeography may also be a factor. We found no exotic species in our study sites. Only one species considered uncharacteristic of the Pinelands was associated with high disturbance basin sites. Unlike previous, similar studies in the Pinelands, the high disturbance sites did not support a unique group of plants. AlthoughSphagnum cover (typically, associated with optimal cedar seedbed conditions) was lowest in disturbed basin sites, there were no significant differences in overall seedbed conditions and cedar seedling density. Cedar swamps located a distance from upgradient watershed disturbances and not affected by overbank flooding seem to be buffered from the impacts of these regional disturbances.