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Long-term Ecological Change

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Many conservation efforts focus on maintaining species diversity. The conservation of large continuous blocks of forested habitat however, does not necessarily ensure that the species within the forests are protected from loss. In fact, forests are experiences decreases in native species, increases in exotic and invasive species, increases in homogenization, shifts in tree species competition, and the failure of some tree species to regenerate. Maintaining plant diversity is important because plant diversity supports the species in other trophic levels and contributes to the resilience and resistance's of the community to perturbations.

We are measuring the nature and extent of long-term ecological change in Wisconsin by resurveying plant communities across many of the sites first surveyed in quantitative detail by J.T. Curtis and his students. We find consistent declines in plant diversity and increases in biotic homogenization across many of our forest sites, but the differences among species and among sites reveal much about the drivers of these changes and how different sites and species are responding to those drivers.

For more information please the webpage for the Plant Ecology Laboratory.

Paying the Extinction Debt in Southern Wisconsin Upland Forests:

Extinction

Related Publications

Rogers, D.A., T.P. Rooney, T. Hawbaker, V. Radeloff, and D.M. Waller. 2009. Paying the extinction debt in southern Wisconsin forest understories. Conservation Biology 23: 1497-1506. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01256.x

Mudrak, E.L., S.E. Johnson, and D.M. Waller. 2009. Forty-seven year changes in vegetation at the Apostle Islands: Effects of deer on the forest understory Nat. Areas J. 29: 167-176.

Kraszewski, Sarah, and D.M. Waller. 2008. Fifty-five year changes in species composition on dry prairie remnants in southcentral Wisconsin. J. Torrey Bot. Soc. 135: 236–244.

Rogers, D.A., T.P. Rooney, and D.M. Waller. 2008. Shifts in southern Wisconsin forest canopy and understory richness, composition and heterogeneity. Ecology 89: 2482–2492.