Old field succession has been reviewed extensively in many community settings; however, secondary succession in maritime communities, especially forest and shrub communities is poorly understood. Maritime communities of the North American Atlantic coast are unique and often fragmented ecosystems that provide critical stopover sites for migratory birds. Historical losses coupled with rising developmental pressures have created the need for conservation and restoration to protect these globally rare communities. We examined secondary succession by analyzing the vegetation community composition and soil seed bank of an abandoned agricultural field initially and at seven years (2009) after initiation of state-agency site restoration that used a combination of active and passive restoration techniques. The restoration field was divided into three projected habitats: early maritime forest (16 ha), maritime shrub (12 ha), and coastal grassland (8 ha). A trend was observed with loss of species richness across habitat types. There was a high proportion of species turnover, yet there were no significant differences in the number of species belonging to functional groups for each habitat between the two sampling years (2003 and 2009). Zones where active restoration techniques were used were more indicative of restoration success compared to areas that relied on spontaneous succession. Long-term vegetation surveys are critical to assess the success of restoration operations, and to describe and predict successional trajectories. Accessible vegetation survey data may become increasingly important in the future as land managers place more emphasis on protecting and restoring these overdeveloped, unique coastal communities.
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