Environmental Management

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 675–684 | Cite as

Conversion of temperate forests into heaths: Role of ecosystem disturbance and ericaceous plants

  • A. U. Mallik


Fire and logging in nutrient-poor temperate forests with certain ericaceous understory plants may convert the forests into heaths. The process of disturbance-induced heath formation is documented by using examples ofCalluna in western Europe,Kalmia in Newfoundland, andGaultheria (salal) in coastal British Columbia. In a cool, temperate climate, rapid vegetative growth ofCalluna, Kalmia, and salal following disturbance results in increasing organic accumulation (paludification), nutrient sequestration, soil acidification, and allelochemicals. These are thought to be the main reasons to conifer regeneration failure in disturbed habitats.

If continuation in forest is a land-use objective, then temperate forests with an ericaceous understory should not be logged unless effective silvicultural methods are devised to control the ericaceous plants and restore forest regeneration. Preharvest vegetation control may be considered as an option. Failure to control the understory plants may lead to a long-term vegetation shift, from forest to heathland, particularly in nutrient-poor sites. Successful methods of controllingKalmia andGaultheria, however, have yet to be developed. While theKalmia- andGaultheria- dominated heathlands are undesirable in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, a wide range ofCalluna heathlands of western Europe are being conserved as natural and seminatural vegetation.

Key Words

Disturbance Fire Logging Calluna Kalmia Gaultheria Heathland Conifers Allelopathy Regeneration failure 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. U. Mallik
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyLakehead UniversityThunder BayCanada

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