Questions: 1. Are there differences among species in their preference for coniferous vs. deciduous forest? 2. Are tree and shrub species better colonizers of recent forest stands than herbaceous species? 3. Do colonization patterns of plant species groups depend on tree species composition?
Location: Three deciduous and one coniferous recent forest areas in Brandenburg, NE Germany.
Methods: In 34 and 21 transects in coniferous and deciduous stands, respectively, we studied the occurrence and percentage cover of vascular plants in a total of 150 plots in ancient stands, 315 in recent stands and 55 at the ecotone. Habitat preference, diaspore weight, generative dispersal potential and clonal extension were used to explain mechanisms of local migration. Regression analysis was conducted to test whether migration distance was related to species' life-history traits.
Results: 25 species were significantly associated with ancient stands and ten species were significantly more frequent in recent stands. Tree and shrub species were good colonizers of recent coniferous and deciduous stands. In the coniferous stands, all herbaceous species showed a strong dispersal limitation during colonization, whereas in the deciduous stands generalist species may have survived in the grasslands which were present prior to afforestation.
Conclusions: The fast colonization of recent stands by trees and shrubs can be explained by their effective dispersal via wind and animals. This, and the comparably efficient migration of herbaceous forest specialists into recent coniferous stands, implies that the conversion of coniferous into deciduous stands adjacent to ancient deciduous forests is promising even without planting of trees.
Nomenclature: Wisskirchen & Haeupler (1998).