When deforestation results in small forest fragments surrounded by a non-forest matrix, forest stands within these fragments experience changes in structure and community composition. They also continue to experience natural disturbances like hurricanes and ice storms. It remains unclear whether the landscape context of forest stands influences plant community response to natural disturbances. Using data from surveys of forested plots in the years immediately following and 19 years after a severe ice storm, we measured changes in woody stem density, species richness and beta diversity. Plots with greater storm damage had greater gains in stems and species, and greater shifts in community composition. In addition, there were interactions between the degree of storm damage and landscape context. The short-term effects of storm damage were magnified in plots with less forest on the surrounding landscape and farther from the forest edge. In plots with high damage, a return towards pre-storm conditions over the long-term occurred more often in plots farther from the forest edge compared to those close to the edge. Synthesis. Future climate scenarios predict increases in severe weather and accompanying ecosystem disturbance. Our results show that it is important to consider landscape context when assessing the response of forest communities to such disturbances.

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Journal of Ecology
Department of Biology

Lloren, J.I. (Jed Immanuel), Fahrig, L, Bennett, J.R, Contreras, T.A. (Thomas A.), & McCune, J.L. (Jenny L.). (2019). The influence of landscape context on short- and long-term forest change following a severe ice storm. Journal of Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.13255