Deciduous Forests of Eastern North America
– A tree-dominated vegetation type in which most of the woody taxa are winter deciduous.
Mixed mesophytic association
(MM, WM, OC of Braun)
Fagus, Liriodendron, Acer saccharum, Tilia, Aesculus, Castanaea, Betula, Quercus, Fraxinus
Sugar maple association
(BM, MB of Braun)
Acer saccharum, Fagus, Tilia,
Dry sites: Quercus, Carya
Wet sites: Fraxinus, Ulmus, Acer rubrum
Oak Hickory Association
Varies from dense closed canopy to woodland and savanna
Oak Pine Hickory Association
Quercus margaretta, Q. marilandica, Juniperus virginiana
Poorer soils dominated by Pinus taeda, P. echinata, Quercus stellata (post oak), Q. Marilandica (black jack oak)
Eastern Deciduous Forest Characteristics
Typical forest canopy reaches 30 m and is closed.
May be multi-layered
One or two shrub layers
Well-developed herb layer
Evergreen dicot trees occur in canopy at southern edge.
Evergreen conifers dominate northern edge.
To west, forest becomes shorter, floristically poorer, and grades into savanna.
Geology is mixed: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks
Widespread calcareous outcrops
Glacially derived materials to north
Occurs on two landforms
Platform areas that are flat
Foldbelts with pronounced relief (0-1600 m)
Climate is humid
Cold winters in north with shortening cold periods as you move south
Boerner, R. E., A.T. Coates, D.A. Yaussy and T.A. Waldrop. 2008. Assessing ecosystem restoration alternatives in eastern deciduous forests: the view from belowground. Restoration Ecology 16(3): 425-434
Some Appalachian mountain forests have been managed for 2000 y.
• Fire has been common for 4000y
• Fire return interval was stable until Native American decline after European contact.
After European contact, fire, harvest and small-holding agriculture were common through the early 20th century.
Fire return interval of around ten years was common.
Government mandated fire suppression began in 30’s and was successful.
Denser forests, more detrital biomass
Some species composition changes
Historic soils were N-limited
Landscape was dominated by trees dependent upon ectomycorrhizae.
Common in low N soil with lots of recalcitrant OM
Industrialization of the east coast has resulted in chronic atmospheric deposition of N and S
Some parts of Appalachians are now N-saturated
This study looked at fire (functional restoration) and thinning (structural restoration).
Would these treatments lower N and result in more recalcitrant OM?
Treatments reduced soil OM, but not N; effects were short-lived.
They recommended regular thinning and burning.
Flinn, K.M. and M. Velland. 2005. Recovery of forest plant communities in post-agricultural landscapes. Front Ecol Environ 3(5):243-250
– Phases of forest clearance for agriculture were followed by agricultural abandonment and forest regrowth.
– Forests on former agricultural land differ in vegetation and soils from uncleared forest.
• Even 2000 y after reforestation.
– The majority of forest plant diversity comes from herbaceous component.
– After abandonment, old fields are colonized by open-habitat herbaceous spp.
– A thicket of shrubs and trees takes 30-40 y
– Closed tree canopy takes 60-80 y
Problems for herbs that evolved in stable, spatially continuous habitat:
– Short-distance seed dispersal
– Short seed dormancy
– Low seedling recruitment
– Long reproductive cycles
Seeding and planting of live plants have both proven to be effective restoration methods.
Deer density has increased
– They graze more
– The can also disperse seeds