Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2002


Forest edges affect many aspects of plant communities, causing changes in microclimate, species composition, and community structure. However, the direct role of edges in regulating forest regeneration is relatively unknown. The pattern of tree establishment across a forest–old field edge was experimentally examined to determine the response of three tree species to the edge gradient. We placed 100 1-m2 plots in a 90 3 90 m grid that began 30 m inside the forest, extended across the edge, and ended at 60 m into the old field. Into each plot, we planted seeds of Acer rubrum, Acer saccharum, and Quercus palustris. Emergence increased with distance into the field for both A. saccharum and Q. palustris. Emergence for A. rubrum increased from forest to field, reaching a maximum near 20 m into the field, and then declined with further distance. Nearly all A. rubrum seedlings died shortly after emergence. Survival of A. saccharum increased with distance into the old field, while survivorship of Q. palustris did not respond to the edge gradient. Establishment probabilities increased with distance into the old field for both A. saccharum and Q. palustris. Growth of Q. palustris and allocation patterns of A. saccharum also varied across the edge gradient. These results suggest that edges have complex, speciesspecific effects on tree establishment and growth that can influence the spatial pattern and species composition of regenerating forests.