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Ellison Abstract- 2005 Ellison et al

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Ellison, A. M., M. S. Bank, B. D. Clinton, E. A. Colburn, K. Elliott, C. R. Ford, D. R. Foster, B. D. Kloeppel, J. D. Knoepp, G. M. Lovett, J. Mohan, D. A. Orwig, N. L. Rodenhouse, W. V. Sobczak, K. A. Stinson, J. K. Stone, C. M. Swan, J. Thompson, B. von Holle, and J. R. Webster. 2005. Loss of foundation species: consequences for the structure and dynamics of forested ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 479-486.


In many forested ecosystems, the architecture and functional ecology of certain tree species define forest structure and their species-specific traits control ecosystem dynamics. Such foundation tree species are declining throughout the world due to introductions and outbreaks of pests and pathogens, selective removal of individual taxa, and over-harvesting. Through a series of case studies, we show that the loss of foundation tree species changes the local environment on which a variety of other species depend; how this disrupts fundamental ecosystem processes, including rates of decomposition, nutrient fluxes, carbon sequestration, and energy flow; and dramatically alters the dynamics of associated aquatic ecosystems. Forests in which dynamics are controlled by one or a few foundation species appear to be dominated by a small number of strong interactions and may be highly susceptible to alternating between stable states following even small perturbations. The ongoing decline of many foundation species provides a set of important, albeit unfortunate, opportunities to develop the research tools, models, and metrics needed to identify foundation species, anticipate the cascade of immediate, short- and long-term changes in ecosystem structure and function that will follow from their loss, and provide options for remedial conservation and management.

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