Question: Does clear-felling influence forest herb colonization into postagricultural forest?
Location: A stand of poplar cultivars with a dense understorey of Acer pseudoplatanus in Muizen forest (northern Belgium), planted in 1952 on farmland adjacent to ancient forest and clear-felled in 1997.
Methods: Shade-tolerant forest herbs were surveyed in 112 grid-based sample plots: just before clear-felling, and 5 and 10 yr afterwards. Shade-tolerant herbs were subdivided into ancient forest species (AFS) and other shade-tolerant
species (OSS). Effects of clear-felling on species number per plot, total cover per plot and colonization rate of species groups were compared using nonparametrical tests. Species number per plot was modelled by means of generalized
linear mixed models (GLMMs), with inventory time, distance to the nearest parcel edge, and cover of light-loving species (LS) as explanatory variables. The C-S-R signature (competitive, stress-tolerant and ruderal strategies,
respectively) shift of sample plots was calculated on the selected shadetolerant species.
Results: Frequency of most species increased during the 10-yr period. Number of OSS increased more and faster than that of AFS. OSS increased to the level of the adjacent forest, but was lower where LS cover remained high. There was a positive correlation between the change of the colonization rate and the competitive plant strategy.
Conclusions: We assume that clear-felling stimulated generative reproduction of shade-tolerant herbs, whereas quickly emerging woody species controlled competitive exclusion by LS. Succession of dark and light phases, such as provided by an understorey managed as a coppice, could promote colonization of shade-tolerant herbs into post-agricultural forest.
Many forest plant species are slow, short-distance colonizers
that are shade-tolerant and dependent on a long and