Question: Does forest vegetation community structure reflect legislative land use designations?
Location: Adirondack Park, New York, USA.
Methods: The Adirondack Park, located in northern New York State, is a mixture of public and private lands, with state-owned Forest Preserve lands comprising ca. 42% of the 2.4 million ha, on which timber harvesting and many other forms of anthropogenic disturbance are prohibited. A survey of vegetation communities was conducted in eighteen upland catchments with differing land use history (managed and Forest Preserve), including overstory, understory, and dead wood (snags and downed woody debris) using randomly placed plots.
Results: Mean overstory density and basal area were not significantly different between land uses, although mean overstory tree size was greater in Preserve catchments. Sapling densities were greater in managed catchments, while mean herb/shrub coverage was not affected by land use. Densities of 25% of common species were affected by land use, determined by GIS coverages constructed using an Inverse Distance Weighted estimation procedure. Discriminant Analysis of per-plot plant community data correctly classified 89% of both managed and Preserve plots.
Conclusion: The success of the Discriminant Analysis in classifying land uses based on vegetation communities indicates its potential utility of this method in comparing forest vegetation to a reference condition in this and other areas. The analysis suggests that at least 85 years is required for Adirondack upland catchments to recover following harvesting. Uncertainty in classification was related to heterogenous management and disturbance patterns within catchments.
Nomenclature: PLANTS National Database ( www.plants.usda.gov).