Belowground Ecology and Dynamics in Eastern Old-Growth Forests
Eastern old-growth forests possess features that distinguish them from human-disturbed stands, especially in terms of the structure, diversity, and function of the ecosystem. To the forest visitor, the distinctive above-ground structure of the old-growth forest is most visible and striking: towering trees, multiple canopy layers, large snags, and coarse woody debris. Hidden from view is an equally complex belowground world that has largely escaped study by ecologists simply because access and observation are so difficult. Are the complex structures and distinctive function aboveground in eastern old-growth forests mirrored in the soil? In this chapter, I summarize current evidence about features of the belowground dynamics of eastern old-growth forests that are characteristic of these spectacular ecosystems.
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