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    Background: Historical forests (circa 1799 to 1846) of Indiana were predominantly composed of American beech (25% of all trees) and upland oaks (27% of all trees). I compared historical forest composition, using studies of smaller areas to approximate composition for uncommon species or genera (< 4.5% of all trees) and forest types, to current forest composition and forest types in Indiana. I also compiled published historical density estimates from small studies and estimated current density for the state. Results: Current forests are diverse with an even composition of many eastern broadleaf species. In addition to upland oaks, which decreased to 13% of all trees, only sugar maple currently comprises greater than 10% of all trees. Other increasing species were yellow-poplar, red maple, black cherry, and eastern redcedar. Eastern redcedar increased from no presence to one of the most abundant ten species (≥ 3.5% of composition), similarly to the pine genus, becoming more common currently than American beech. Beech or oak or beech-oak forest types (≥ 24% of all trees) became eastern broadleaf forests, with no dominant species, and black cherry, red maple, and eastern redcedar forest types now occurred. Estimates of historical oak or beech forests ranged from 28 trees per hectare to 175 trees per hectare, which probably represent savannas and woodlands. Current mean density of Indiana forests is 385 trees per hectare, ranging from 180 trees per hectare to 450 trees per hectare. These forests likely contain dense layers of woody vegetation, filling the midstory and replacing herbaceous vegetation in the ground layer. Conclusion: Historically dominant beech and oak forests in the eastern United States have transitioned to an alternative state of closed eastern broadleaf forests due to uncontrolled establishment of many tree species.

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    Hanberry, Brice B. 2019. Trajectory from beech and oak forests to eastern broadleaf forests in Indiana, USA. Ecological Processes. 8: 3.


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    fire, historical, range of variability, transition

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