Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 7, pp 1179–1191

Dynamics, diversity, and resource gradient relationships in the herbaceous layer of an old-growth Appalachian forest



The ecological drivers of herbaceous layer composition and diversity in deciduous forests of eastern North America are imperfectly understood. We analyzed the herbaceous layer, across the growing season, in a central Appalachian old-growth forest to examine dynamics, diversity, and relationships to resource gradients. We found clear variation in herb species composition over the growing season. We identified intermingled resource gradients, including soil nutrients, light availability, and topography, that were related to herbaceous composition. We found that herb layer diversity was different among previously identified tree communities, but was not variable over the growing season. We identified a unimodal relationship between diversity and productivity in the herb flora that held throughout the growing season despite changing composition and levels of productivity. Diversity and distributions in the herbaceous community of our study site are linked to a complex of resource gradients.


Ground layer Herb Community structure Phenology Diversity–productivity relationships Environmental gradient 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyThe University of DaytonDaytonUSA
  2. 2.Santa Barbara Botanic GardenSanta BarbaraUSA

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