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New Harvard Forest Publications: Historical Land-Use And Its Impacts On Coastal Southern New England

March 1, 2007
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Von Holle & Motzkin (2007) examined how previous land use and current biotic and environmental properties influence the abundance and distribution of nonnative plant species across coastal upland habitats of southern New England and adjacent New York. They found that the modern distribution of nonnative plants is influenced by multiple, interdependent current and historical factors. Open-canopy communities, such as grasslands, heath barrens and old fields had significantly greater numbers of nonindigenous plants. Additionally, soil calcium levels and native species richness were positively associated with nonnative species richness. Sites that were cultivated historically or experienced other soil disturbance had higher nonnative species richness than areas without soil disturbance. Last, glaciolacustrine landforms had greater nonnative species richness and cover than beach-dune, moraine, and glacial outwash sand plain landforms. Because many rare coastal sandplain plants reach their greatest abundance on extant open-canopied habitats that have historically been disturbed, efforts to restore rare native plants will involve tradeoffs between the benefits of expanded habitat for these species and increased risk of invasion by nonnative species.

Von Holle. B. and G. Motzkin. 2007. Historical land use and environmental determinants of nonnative plant distribution in coastal southern New England. Biological Conservation 136:33-43.

Neill et al. (2007) investigated the role of previous land use, disturbance, and overstory vegetation in controlling soil chemistry and native versus nonnative species composition. They found large differences in soil chemistry and a much higher proportion of nonindigenous species in agricultural grasslands compared with a variety of other sandplain vegetation types that had historically experienced different land uses. This suggests that restoring sandplain shrubland and grassland communities on agricultural lands might be a challenge, given their artificially high levels of soil nutrients and disturbed soils.

Neill, C. M., B. Von Holle, K. Kleese, K. Ivy, A. R. Colllins, C. Treat, and M. Dean. 2007. Historical influences on the vegetation and soils of the Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts coastal sandplain: Implications for conservation and restoration. Biological Conservation 136:17-32. 

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