Topography and Vegetation Patterns in an Old-Growth Appalachian Forest: Lucy Braun, You Were Right!
The biologically diverse Appalachian forests of eastern North America are an especially interesting and important example of the complex relationship between physiographic factors (e.g., elevation), disturbance processes, and long-term shifts in forest composition. Due to the widespread and often intense land-use practices of Euro-Americans, particularly circa 1880 to 1930, past human activity is an important component of the pattern and process we observe in forests of eastern North American today. Only a few small parcels of forest remain where dynamics have been driven mainly by nonanthropogenic phenomena, and these old-growth forests provide a crucial window to the past and an important baseline for the present and future. Understanding the historical and contemporary drivers of long-term dynamics has become an increasingly important goal in ecology as anthropogenically driven declines in biodiversity, including extinctions, and undesirable shifts in community composition threaten the performance of ecosystems as well as the benefits derived from them by humans (Pimm et al. 2014).
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