Dynamics and disturbance in an old-growth forest remnant in Western Ohio

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.S. in Biology


Department of Biology


Advisor: Ryan W. McEwan


Forest communities are dynamic through time, reacting to shifts in disturbance and climate regimes. A widespread community shift has been witnessed in many forests of eastern North America wherein oak (Quercus spp.) populations are decreasing while maple (Acer spp.) populations are increasing. Altered fire regimes over the last century are thought to be the primary driver of oak-to-maple community shifts; however, the influence of other non-equilibrium processes on this community shift remains under-explored. Our study sought to determine the community structure and disturbance history of an old-growth forest remnant in an area of western Ohio where fires were historically uncommon. To determine community structure, abundance of woody species was measured within 32 plots at 4 canopy strata and dendrochronology was used to determine the relative age-structure of the forest. Dendroecological techniques were also used to determine the disturbance history of the site. We found that early- and mid-successional genera such as oaks and hickories (Carya spp.) decreased in abundance while maples increased in abundance. A shift in disturbance regime ca. 1890 was the primary reason for the observed change in community structure. A suite of 'multiple-interacting drivers' such as anthropogenic land use changes to the areas surrounding the site and alterations in herbivore population density were responsible for the dominance shift that has occurred in this old-growth forest remnant.


Oak Ecology Ohio, Maple Ecology Ohio, Forest ecology Ohio, Vegetation surveys Ohio, Ecological surveys Ohio, Old growth forests Ohio

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2012, author