Landscape Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 627–647

Vegetation Composition and Succession of Abandoned Farmland: Effects of Ecological, Historical and Spatial Factors

Research Article


In North America, as well as in Europe, the mechanization and the modernization of the agricultural activities had strongly modified the agricultural landscapes. Originating from these transformations of the agricultural environment, abandoned farmlands remain poorly known environments. A holistic approach, including the analysis of ecological, historical and spatial factors, is used in order to understand the dynamics of these environments created by agricultural abandonment in southwestern Québec (Canada). The analysis of 36 abandoned farmlands in the study area reveals the existence of two ecological groups. The first ecological group is composed by abandoned farmlands originating from pasture and at the moment dominated by a spiny shrub vegetation. The second ecological group includes past cultivated field at the moment dominated by either hydric herbaceous and shrub vegetation. Abiotic ecological variables such as slope, surface stoniness, canopy opening and soil pH, as well as land-use history, and age of the abandoned farmlands, are major factors explaining the current state of abandoned farmlands. Succession vector analysis reveals a strong differentiation among abandoned farmlands as to their tree species regeneration. Possible management alternatives, such as reforestation, are proposed in order to integrate those new environments to the modern agricultural landscape.

Key words:

Abandoned fields Canada Ecological groups Land management Old fields Québec Scrublands Shrublands Successional vectors Variation partitioning 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karyne Benjamin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gérald Domon
    • 2
    • 3
  • André Bouchard
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Département de Sciences biologiquesUniversité de Montréal (Plant Science Research Institute, Biological Sciences Department, University of Montreal)MontréalCanada
  2. 2.Faculté de l 9AménagementUniversité de Montréal (Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Montreal)MontréalCanada
  3. 3.Groupe de recherche en écologie forestière interuniversitaire (GREFi)Université de Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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