Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Brice B. HanberryDon C. Bragg; Heather D. Alexander
    Date: 2020
    Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 472: 118256.
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (2.0 MB)

    Description

    Once dominant but now largely excluded from eastern North America, open forests of savannas to woodlands occupy the ecosystem gradient between grasslands and closed forests. These fire-maintained systems differ in structure, processes, and species from closed canopy, succession-driven forests that currently dominate this region. In functional open forest ecosystems, frequent, low to mixed severity and intensity surface fires limit tree regeneration, depending on factors such as overstory tree density, resulting in relatively stable structure where overstory trees co-exist with a largely herbaceous understory. Reduced and spatially variable tree densities in open forests result in unique environmental conditions and function. Trees in open forests typically represent a small fraction of the biodiversity, which instead resides in the rich herbaceous ground layer. Rather than being constrained by overstory disturbances, succession, and biological legacies, the permanently open structure and herbaceous communities of open forests support invertebrate and vertebrate species throughout their lifetimes. Transition from open to closed forests across most of eastern North America during the past century produced a “new normal,” in which excluded open forests remain largely unrecognized at considerable conservation costs, particularly loss of key processes and wildlife species associated with a matrix of co-dominant tree and herbaceous layers. Management for open forests emphasizes the understory herbaceous plant community, similar to ephemeral seral stages of successional forest, rather than tree regeneration to produce an alternative outcome in structure, function, and support for biodiversity.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to rmrspubrequest@fs.fed.us to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Hanberry, Brice B.; Bragg, Don. C.; Alexander, Heather D. 2020. Open forest ecosystems: An excluded state. Forest Ecology and Management. 472: 118256.

    Cited

    Google Scholar

    Keywords

    ecological restoration, fire, function, herbaceous plants, understory, wildlife

    Related Search


    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page
https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/60200