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Ecological integrity of remnant montane forests along an urban gradient in the Sierra NevadaAuthor(s): K. E. Heckmann; P.N. Manley; M.D. Schlesinger
Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 255:2453-2466
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
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DescriptionUrban development typically has extensive and intensive effects on native ecosystems, including vegetation communities and their associated biota. Increasingly, urban planning strives to retain elements of native ecosystems to meet multiple social and ecological objectives. The ecological integrity of native forests in an urbanizing landscape is challenged by a myriad of impacts, such as forest management and invasive species. Environmental protection efforts in the Lake Tahoe basin, spanning the California/Nevada border in the Sierra Nevada mountains, over the past half century have resulted in the retention of thousands of parcels of remnant native forest located throughout the urbanizing landscape. The basin landscape provides an opportunity to evaluate the effects of land development on the composition and structure of remnant native forests along a gradient of urbanization.We sampled 118 sites located in remnant forests in the lower montane zone surrounded by 0–70<%> development.We also sampled forest structure in the landscape surrounding 75 of these sites to evaluate the contribution of remnant forests to the retention of native forest elements in the larger landscape.We characterized plant species composition and cover, vertical structure, and the density of trees, snags, and logs,as well as levels of ground disturbance and human activity. We found that remnant native forests retained much of their compositional and structural character along the development gradient, including large tree density, total canopy cover, and plant species richness. Notable exceptions were reductions in the density and decay stage of snags and logs, and the density of understory trees.We also observed increases in the richness and cover of herb and grass species and increases in the number of exotic plant species. In contrast, structural complexity was reduced in the landscape surrounding forest remnants in all measures except large tree density. We conclude that remnant native forests contribute significantly to maintaining native species in an urbanizing landscape, and that land conservation practices have an important role to play in protecting native forest ecosystems.
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CitationHeckmann, K. E.; Manley, P.N.; Schlesinger, M.D. 2008. Ecological integrity of remnant montane forests along an urban gradient in the Sierra Nevada. 2008 Forest Ecology and Management. 255:2453-2466.
KeywordsExotic plant species, Lake Tahoe, Montane forest structure, Sierra Nevada, Snags and logs, Urban gradient
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