41 Years of Historical Canopy Gap Dynamics in Hueston Woods Old-Growth Preserve

41 Years of Historical Canopy Gap Dynamics in Hueston Woods Old-Growth Preserve



Grace Katherine Attea


Presentation: 9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom

This project reflects research conducted as part of a course project designed to give students experience in the research process.

Course: GEO 598



Late-successional forests development takes place on the scale of centuries and, therefore, understanding long-term dynamics requires research techniques that unfold over decades. Species-specific data collection in repeatedly sampled permanent plots provides researchers and land managers with a toolset for understanding how forests shift with global change drivers. In this project I will leverage nearly 30 years of numerical and spatial data of Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve. This site is amongst <1% of land in the eastern United States classified as old-growth, making it a relic of midwestern landscape history. It has been the subject of several studies due to its steady, infrequent natural disturbances, known as gap-phase dynamics. This is a process of tree regeneration that happens when a canopy tree falls, puncturing the overstory with a gap that becomes a center for the establishment of seedlings and the growth of extant trees as they vie for new resources of nutrients and light. Archetypes of late-successional forests are theorized to be structured on gap-phase dynamics, as they create a unique mosaic of young and aged forest patches, emblematic of old-growth. Miami University professor Dr. Vankat established our study site in 1981 and resampled it in 1988, 1994, and 2000, for woody species diameter, height, species ID, and location providing a unique standard for exploring shifts in distribution, canopy gap development, and recruitment. Field maps will be georeferenced and digitized in ArcGIS software. Next, we will estimate canopy gaps by using the buffer tool with diameter-based size-classes in ArcGIS. Gap ingrowth and recruitment will then be quantified to better understand long-term forest turnover. Findings will contribute to ongoing research, provide context to manipulative studies, and lay a baseline for land managers, investors, and research ecologists in creating strategic conservation plans in a time of increasing biological pressures on natural systems.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Course Project

Primary Advisor

Ryan W. McEwan, Chia-Yu Wu

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Life on Land

41 Years of Historical Canopy Gap Dynamics in Hueston Woods Old-Growth Preserve